21 August 2017 – The arrest by Spanish authorities of Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçın pursuant to an Interpol Notice issued by Turkey is deeply concerning, said PEN International today, as it called on the Spanish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Yalçın and to allow him to return to Sweden.
‘It is highly alarming that Spain arrested Hamza Yalçın pursuant to a request emanating from Turkey, which through Interpol appears to be attempting to extend internationally its persecution of journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression’, said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.
Yalçın was detained at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on 3 August 2017 pursuant to an international request for cooperation issued through Interpol by Turkey. On 4 August, he was arrested by Spanish police on charges of ‘terror propaganda’ and ‘insulting the Turkish President’. The Spanish authorities have 40 days from his detention to decide on his extradition to Turkey.
The charges against Yalçın relate to an article he wrote for Odak magazine. IFEX reports that on 18 March, Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into Yalçın, Odak’s chief columnist and the coordinator for its Training and Solidarity Movement, and Doğan Baran, the magazine’s managing editor, for the article ‘The Latest Developments in the Military and the Revolutionary Struggle’. Both men face charges of ‘insulting the President’ and ‘denigrating the military’.
‘We are alarmed by the detention of Hamza Yalçın under charges that hide that he is persecuted for his writings and his analysis critical of the Turkish government. We ask for his immediate release’, said from Barcelona Carme Arenas, president of Catalan PEN.
In April 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe noted that ‘Interpol and its Red Notice system have been abused by some member States … in order to repress freedom of expression or to persecute members of the political opposition beyond their borders’ and called on all member states of the Council of Europe to ‘refrain from carrying out arrests … when they have serious concerns that the notice in question could be abusive’.
In addition to calling on the Spanish authorities to release Yalçın immediately and unconditionally, PEN International calls on all states to take into account Turkey’s human rights record when assessing requests for international law enforcement cooperation. Furthermore, PEN International calls on Turkey to release all those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
In 1979, Yalçın was arrested in Turkey on charges of being linked to the People’s Liberation Party-Front of Turkey (THKP-C) Third Way organisation, a Marxist-Leninist party classified as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States of America due to its violent activity. Yalçın was given two consecutive life sentences by the military junta for his ‘revolutionary activities’. He was granted asylum by Sweden, where he has lived in exile since 1984.
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