Prisoner of Conscience: Nedim Türfent
“Because authoritarianism in Turkey has yet to peak, it is now more crucial that writers fulfil their responsibility to promote peace and freedom in our everyday lives,” said the imprisoned Turkish journalist, writer, and poet Nedim Türfent. He sent this plea to support peace and freedom from prison after learning that English PEN had granted him an honorary membership in September.
This prominent global writers’ association referred to him as “one of many writers currently imprisoned in Turkey” and sentenced on trumped-up charges. Previously, the organization had launched a solidarity campaign in his support, translated some of his poems, and called for his release.
Türfent was arrested in the spring of 2016 while covering a story in southeast Turkey for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency. A few months later, this media outlet was shut down by a special decree from the Turkish government. Most of Türfent’s ’s work deals with Kurdish-related issues. He was in the region to document the alleged abuse of Turkish and Kurdish workers by Turkish forces. Once his story was published, Türfent became a target of online harassment and received death threats.
A day after he was detained, he was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda”. He was only indicted more than one year later and his first hearing was delayed to June 2017. During his trial, a majority of the witnesses against him admitted that their statements were obtained through torture. In December 2017, a Turkish court sentenced Türfent to jail for eight years and nine months. A year later, Turkey’s Court of Cassation upheld the sentence.
PEN International condemned this decision. “We deplore the decision of Turkey’s Court of Cassation to uphold Nedim Türfent’s lengthy and unfair prison sentence, despite blatant violations of his right to a fair trial,” said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, in a statement. “It is another dark day in Nedim’s ongoing miscarriage of justice. The Turkish authorities must release him immediately and unconditionally, and urgently overturn his conviction.”
Other international organizations and human rights defenders also criticized the court’s decision as a miscarriage of justice.
In June 2020, several international organizations issued a statement marking the 1,500th day of the journalist’s imprisonment and again called for “his immediate and unconditional release”.
“For the “crime” of doing journalism, Nedim Türfent has now spent 1,500 days in prison. He has been harassed, targeted, threatened, and deprived of his freedom. Turkey must end this injustice and immediately release Nedim and all other journalists in Turkey jailed for doing their jobs,” said Scott Griffen, Deputy Director of the International Press Institute, in a statement.
Disclaimer: As of December 1, 2020, Nedim Türfent is still in prison, serving the remainder of his sentence.
Prisoners of Conscience from East and Southeast Europe
We feature select few prisoners of conscience out of the many in East and Southeast Europe. One political prisoner is one too many.
Find out who the other political prisoners are #PrisonersofConscience #FreeThemAll and in the special Focus on our website.