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Türkiye: Editor, poet, and honorary PEN member Nedim Türfent released from prison

Tuesday 29 November 2022 - 10:15am

Nedim Türfent was released from prison on 29 November 2022. Credit: MLSA

PEN International and the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) welcome the release of news editor, reporter, and poet Nedim Türfent, who was arrested on 12 May 2016 and subsequently sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges. Türfent spent over 2400 days behind bars. He is an honorary member of English PEN and PEN Melbourne.

‘The PEN Community welcomes the long-awaited release of Nedim Türfent, although he should have never spent a single day in prison. His ordeal is a painful reminder of the difficult situation for freedom of expression in Türkiye and the hefty price writers and journalists are paying merely for speaking out. Today, as we celebrate Türfent’s freedom, we also remember all those still held in Türkiye for peacefully expressing their views. We once again urge the authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally,’ said Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Exposing an unlawful treatment of civilians should have been awarded a journalism prize, it turned into a seven-year ordeal instead. However, we are proud that Nedim Türfent continued to write and create, showing that his imprisonment, which intended to silence him, did not achieve that end. We know we will continue to see this inspiring courage and we wholeheartedly welcome Nedim back to freedom,’ said Barış Altıntaş, Co-Chair of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

Background information

A news editor and reporter at the now-closed pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Nedim Türfent, 32, was detained on 12 May 2016 in Van, South-eastern Türkiye, shortly after reporting on special police forces’ ill-treatment of Kurdish workers. Soon after his video footage was released, Türfent began receiving death threats from the police and was the target of an online harassment campaign. He was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ one day after his arrest; the indictment was first produced 10 months later. He spent almost two years in solitary confinement in harrowing detention conditions.

Among the reasons listed in the indictment were Nedim Türfent’s social media posts, his news reporting and 20 concealed witness testimonies. His first hearing was held in Hakkari on 14 June 2017, some 200 km away from Van where he was being detained. He was denied the right to appear physically in court seven times, and instead testified via the judicial conferencing system SEGBİS, experiencing severe connection and interpretation issues. Out of the 20 witnesses called, 19 retracted their statements, saying they had been extracted under torture. MLSA provided Türfent with legal counsel and notably brought his detention and conviction before the European Court of Human Rights.

While in prison Nedim Türfent wrote ‘Kuş Aynası,’ a collection of poems published in September 2021 in Turkey by Aram Publishing.

PEN International and PEN Centres across the world have actively been campaigning for Nedim Türfent’s release, by notably sending appeals to the authorities, taking part in solidarity actions, and translating and promoting his poetry, amongst other things. In September 2022, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International adopted a Resolution on the repression of Kurdish language and culture in Türkiye, which notably calls on the authorities to end the prosecution and detention of writers and journalists on the basis of the content of their writing – including in support of Kurdish language and culture – and to immediately release all those held for peacefully expressing their views, including Türfent.

PEN Centres wishing to send him a message should contact Aurélia Dondo, Europe Programme Coordinator: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

For more information about PEN’s campaign for Nedim Türfent please click here.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org