Turkey indicts Dutch reporter over ‘terror propaganda’

Geerdink, who rejects charges, is indicted for making “terrorist propaganda” in social media and her opinion articles.

Fréderike Geerdink Turkey Dutch journalist
Geerdink, who is facing one to five years in prison, says she will not leave Turkey [kurdishmatters.com]

A Dutch journalist based in southeastern Turkey has been officially indicted by Turkish prosecutors for spreading “terrorist propaganda” on social media. 

Frederike Geerdink, who rejected the charges, told Al Jazeera that she received an indictment notice from the prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakir, the city she is based in, adding that the document charges her with crimes committed between September 10 and October 28.

“The document refers to tweets and Facebook posts as well as her weekly column on Diken.com.tr, an independent Turkish news website,” she said.

The Prosecutor’s office charges Geerdink with spreading propaganda for the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group that has been fighting against the Turkish state since mid-1980s. She is facing one to five years in prison.

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Revealed in 2012, Turkish government has been carrying out talks with the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in order to achieve a lasting peace in the country.

As confirmed by Turkish government officials after a leak of an illegal recording in 2011, Turkish intelligence officials had also met PKK officials in Norwegian capital of Oslo in the framework of the same talks.

Geerdink was detained and questioned by the same prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakir in early January and was released on the same day.

According to the Dutch journalist, the prosecutors asked about her July 2014 interview with Cemil Bayik, a PKK leader, based in Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq as well as her social media activity.

Geerdink also said that she was not considering leaving Turkey.

Anti-terror law

Turkish law allows “terrorist propaganda” to be investigated only if it includes phrases in support of “methods of violence, threat or force”.

In the past years, many local journalists, mostly ones with Kurdish origins, have been arrested under the same law.

Out of 180 countries, Turkey ranks 154th in press freedom, according to a 2014 ranking of Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based rights group.

Ergin Cinmen, a Turkish human rights lawyer, told Al Jazeera from Istanbul that the definition of “terrorist propaganda” is not clearly defined by Turkish law.

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Cinmen added: “When the law is unclear, judgments by the European Court of Human Rights on the issue should be taken into consideration. And the verdicts taken by the court – in line with the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – point out that freedom of expression cannot be restricted unless it involves support for violence or offences towards another individual’s personal rights.”

Turkey is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and Turkish citizens are allowed to take individual cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Geerdink has moved to Turkey in 2006 and has been reporting from there since then. Her work mainly focuses on the Kurdish issue.

PKK, which has been recognised as terrorist organisation by the EU and US, has been demanding greater autonomy from Turkey for over a 30-year period.

Over the decades, its demands gradually transformed from Kurdish independence to autonomy and, now, to a fully democratised Turkey for all.

Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

Source: Al Jazeera