Kategoriarkiv: Artikkel

İlhan Sami Çomak

Ilhan Sami Çomak.
İlhan Sami Çomak

Da den 21 år gamle tyrkiske geografistudenten Ilhan Çomak i 1994 ble arrestert i forbindelse med en fredelig demonstrasjon mot den tyrkiske regjeringens behandling av kurdere, ante han lite om hva som ventet. I dag, 26 år seinere, sitter han fortsatt fengslet på en livstidsdom. PEN International og andre organisasjoner, grupper og enkeltpersoner over hele Europa har gjennom årene appellert innstendig til tyrkiske myndigheter om at han må settes fri, men de taler for døve ører. Ilhan Çomak er fortsatt innesperret.        

Tidlig i fangenskapet begynte Çomak å skrive poesi. Flere av diktene har blitt oversatt til engelsk av den walisiske poeten Caroline Stockford, som også er Norsk PENs Tyrkia-rådgiver. Til sammen har han utgitt åtte bøker. De viser et språklig talent på sjeldent nivå.

I mars skrev Çomak brev til alle som hadde støttet kampanjen for hans løslatelse, der han reflekterte over hva det for ham som 47-åring vil si å ha sittet innesperret mer enn halve livet. Det er slående hvor lite hat og bitterhet denne teksten utsondrer. Snarere er det en utstråling av energi som formidler en uangripelig og ukuelig fascinasjon over livets små og store undere, samt en lengsel etter igjen å få komme ut og ta del i dagliglivet. Som han sier: ”Jeg lengter etter å se vinmarker i blomstring, jeg lengter etter å komme ut i gater der barn klatrer over hagemurer for å skulke skolen, jeg lengter etter elver som renner ut av kartene.”

En slik styrke, motstandskraft og forestillingsevne skaper stor poesi.

Øivind Hånes, leder av Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere

Nye æresmedlemmer i Norsk PEN: İlhan Sami Çomak og Ilham Tohti

Norsk PEN har utnevnt to nye æresmedlemmer. Æresmedlemmer utnevnes etter innstilling fra Komiteen for Fengslede Forfattere. Når komiteen foreslår forfulgte forfattere og journalister til æresmedlemskap, betyr det at vi bør følge særlig nøye med på sakene deres.

11. juni 2020 utnevnte styret i Norsk PEN Ilham Tohti og İlhan Sami Çomak til nye æresmedlemmer, etter forslag fra Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere.

Ilhan Sami Çomak.
İlhan Sami Çomak

Da den 21 år gamle tyrkiske geografistudenten Ilhan Çomak i 1994 ble arrestert i forbindelse med en fredelig demonstrasjon mot den tyrkiske regjeringens behandling av kurdere, ante han lite om hva som ventet. I dag, 26 år seinere, sitter han fortsatt fengslet på en livstidsdom. PEN International og andre organisasjoner, grupper og enkeltpersoner over hele Europa har gjennom årene appellert innstendig til tyrkiske myndigheter om at han må settes fri, men de taler for døve ører. Ilhan Çomak er fortsatt innesperret.        

Tidlig i fangenskapet begynte Çomak å skrive poesi. Flere av diktene har blitt oversatt til engelsk av den walisiske poeten Caroline Stockford, som også er Norsk PENs Tyrkia-rådgiver. Til sammen har han utgitt åtte bøker. De viser et språklig talent på sjeldent nivå.

I mars skrev Çomak brev til alle som hadde støttet kampanjen for hans løslatelse, der han reflekterte over hva det for ham som 47-åring vil si å ha sittet innesperret mer enn halve livet. Det er slående hvor lite hat og bitterhet denne teksten utsondrer. Snarere er det en utstråling av energi som formidler en uangripelig og ukuelig fascinasjon over livets små og store undere, samt en lengsel etter igjen å få komme ut og ta del i dagliglivet. Som han sier: ”Jeg lengter etter å se vinmarker i blomstring, jeg lengter etter å komme ut i gater der barn klatrer over hagemurer for å skulke skolen, jeg lengter etter elver som renner ut av kartene.”

En slik styrke, motstandskraft og forestillingsevne skaper stor poesi.

Øivind Hånes, leder av Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere

Ilham Tohti.
Ilham Tohti

Den uigurske økonomen og skribenten Ilham Tohti (f. 1969) har i mange år vært en skarp kritiker av forskjellsbehandlingen den muslimske minoriteten han tilhører er utsatt for i Kina. Han har tatt til orde for samarbeid mellom sentrale myndigheter og regionale minoriteter.

I 2006 grunnla han nettstedet uighurbiz.net for å fremme forsoning mellom uigurer og Kinas majoritetsbefolkning. I januar 2014 ble Tohti arrestert, og senere dømt tid fengsel på livstid, for angivelig «separatisme».

I april samme år ble han, til skarpe protester fra kinesiske myndigheter, tildelt PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award for sitt langvarige engasjement.

Alexander Leborg, medlem av Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere

Calling for greater transparency from Turkey’s public ad agency

4th June, Norwegian PEN together with 19 other international press freedom and freedom of expression groups sent a joint public letter to the General Director of Turkey’s Public Advertising Agency, which is responsible for the fair distribution of public ads in national and local newspapers.
Turkish newspapers / SHUTTERSTOCK

Rıdvan Duran,
General Director, Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK)
Merkez Efendi Mah. Mevlana Cad. No: 140/A
Toya Plaza Kat: 5 Zeytinburnu / İSTANBUL

Dear Mr. Duran,

On behalf of the 20 international and local press freedom organisations and signatories to this letter, we are writing to the Public Advertising Agency (BIK) in response to your letter on
March 24.

First of all, we would like to thank you once again for keeping an open dialogue with the international press freedom groups who are party to this letter. And we highly appreciate BIK’s role in providing Turkey’s media and its workers with the financial support and
advertising revenue to sustain the variety of print papers in the country.

However, we would like to kindly draw attention to several issues that were raised during our meeting on February 6 and in the following letters in order to repeat our concerns about BIK’s criteria regarding the distribution of public advertisement and bans implemented on newspapers.

Firstly, you have mentioned in your letter that no media outlet or group has requested information on the annual revenue distribution to newspapers before, because all recipient newspapers of public ads can access this information at all times.

Our view is that due to the important role that BIK plays in distributing public money to 1,054 newspapers in Turkey, it is BIK that has the responsibility to proactively make this information public in the name of transparency. Access to such reports is crucial to proving that the distribution to newspapers by BIK is equal and fair.

We have called on BIK to ensure plurality and diversity in support to media, which is essential to ensuring all voices are supported and heard. Our call on BIK to lift the indefinite ban on Evrensel does not concern only one newspaper but rather reflects a call to support
plurality and diversity across the whole media sector. Evrensel is a symbolic case that represents the critical press as a whole, which has been continuously targeted by judicial harassment and other state tools.

Evrensel has on several occasions answered the allegation against it of bulk buying. We have learned that the latest audit request by Evrensel to BIK has been understandably postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. We feel confident that when public health circumstances allow it, BIK will conduct a fair audit in response to Evrensel’s statement that any technical problems have been resolved.

We also understand that BIK conducts audits based on claims of a “violation of the regulation” by newspapers. We believe that it would be important to provide information on how many such audits BIK has conducted over the past year and against which
newspapers.

Another concern relates to bans based on “press ethics violations”. There is a growing trend of BIK imposing lengthy bans of this type for over 10 or 15 days. While we understand that all national and local newspapers must respect press ethics and conduct fact-based
reporting, it would be of great importance to understand the fuller picture regarding BIK’s bans based on such press ethics violations and the full criteria and reasons for implementing them. Doing such would strengthen trust in BIK’s work.

At the moment, due to lack of publicly available information, international press freedom groups are only aware of bans that have been reported by the media. To give some examples, since your letter in March, the national newspaper Sözcü reported on April 30,
2020 that newspapers Sözcü and Korkusuz have been under immense pressure by ad bans over their news stories. The report stated that several ex officio investigations had been opened in the last eight months on news stories, eventually resulting in a 22-day ad ban on Sözcü and 19-day ban on Korkusuz. According to the news report, these bans correspond to a revenue loss of two million TL (approx. €267.000) for the Sözcü media group.

Another local newspaper in Sakarya, whose name is not revealed, was issued an 8-day ban on March 23, 2020, according to local reports, over press ethics violations. The ban was reported to correspond to 8.000 TL revenue loss (€1,069).

Last but not least, Evrensel newspaper was issued with a 5-day ban on April 22, 2020 over an article published on February 24, for allegedly associating Turkey with terrorist groups based on a critical op-ed on Turkey’s foreign policy and military operations in Libya and
Syria. A passage from the article has been cited in the BIK decision that article “crosses the lines of criticism” because of referring to some outlawed groups’ manipulation of religious values and expressing similarities in Turkey’s approach to religious concept of “martyrdom”.

Based on the information found on BIK’s website, during the first 11 General Assembly meetings between January 10, 2020 and June 1, a total of 39 national and local newspapers received advertising bans in a total amount of 316 days based on “Press Ethics Violations”.

Although the names of newspapers and detailed information on these bans are not revealed, this is likely to mean considerable revenue loss of many newspapers, which might force them eventually to shut down their print editions.

The most recent example on this is the 35-day-ban on Cumhuriyet newspaper during the 10th General Assembly meeting on May 13. Cumhuriyet was fined for an article reported on unauthorized construction on rental land belonging to Communications Director Fahrettin Altun in Istanbul. Cumhuriyet said that this ban would mean a 500.000 TL loss (approx. €67,400) for the newspaper. Cumhuriyet reporters are under investigation for the same reporting. Altun is well known for filing consecutive lawsuits against journalists and newspapers for any criticism against him or the President Erdoğan. Court decisions to block access to news reports on 273 newspapers online reporting the same issue is another sign of intolerance of fact-based critical reporting.

Yet another recent example in May is a 7-day ban on BirGün newspaper over two articles published in September 2019 on alleged corruption in country’s largest humanitarian organization, Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay). BirGün reported that although BIK has not disproved the claims, they issued the ban for “generating misperception” and publishing false information.

In comparison to the bans on 39 newspapers between January and May noted above, BIK issued only nine days ban on six newspapers under “Press Ethics Violations” in the first nine months of 2019 (between January and September). These figures show that the number of ad bans on newspapers is increasing, although there is no clear justification why.

As we have noted, because BIK does not publish information about which newspapers received ad bans, it is not possible for the public or for international press freedom organizations to receive the full picture about the criteria and fairness for these bans.

Therefore, greater transparency would be in BIK’s interest.
Additionally, BIK has requested a defence from 22 newspapers during 11 General Assembly meetings in 2020 based on allegations of press ethics violations, decisions which all have been taken ex officio. At the same time, 14 files against newspapers upon individual complaints have been rejected as no action or investigation was seen as necessary.

Information about from which newspapers BIK requested a defence and which complaints were rejected on which grounds is crucial to understanding BIK’s role and policy to provide support to 1,054 newspapers regardless of their editorial line.

One latest example was that a defence was requested from Evrensel over an article published on April 16 reporting CHP MP Özgür Özel’s comments on the corruption allegations on the land rented by Presidential Communications Director Altun. As Evrensel reports that BIK did not specify which part in the news story violated the press ethics, BIK accused the newspaper of “publication against public ethics”, “accusing someone without him/her proven guilty” after publishing an opposition politician’s interview.

We do recognize and appreciate BIK’s financial support to 3,411 press workers and to 150 minority newspapers, as well as the financial support to numerous journalists associations as it was reported in your letter. However, we believe that it remains important to provide maximum transparency when it comes to the distribution of the 467.041.082 TL annual budget in 2019. This transparency is necessary to ensure public trust in BIK’s valuable work.

Finally, we would like to touch upon another issue you have brought in your response about the independence of BIK and its General Assembly. In 2018, BIK has been tied under direct control of the Presidential Communications Directorate by a presidential decree.

As you also specified in the letter, BIK General Assembly is composed of three 12-member groups and these three groups have been named respectively as “Press Group”, “Government Group”, and “Impartial Group”. As most of the General Assembly members
were directly appointed by or selected under influence by the Presidential Office, this raises concerns about how the BIK General Assembly maintains its independence and impartiality.

To give an example, Serhat Albayrak, former chair of Çalık Holding together with his brother, Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, is among those members of “Press Group” as the owner of Sabah newspaper, which has been criticized for publicly targeting those who have been critical of the AKP administration. Serhat Albayrak was also reported by German member of the parliament Ulla Jelpke in a parliamentary question to be financing the SETA
Foundation which has published a report called “Extensions of international media in Turkey” profiling journalists working for respected international media outlets such as Deutsche Welle, BBC, Euronews, Voice of America.

Similarly, İsmail Çağlar, a member of the General Assembly under “Government Group”, is one of the three authors who prepared the abovementioned SETA report. And finally, Ebubekir Şahin, the chair of Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK), is one of the members under the same group appointed by the presidential office. RTÜK has been filing broadcast bans and monetary fines to numerous critical tv channels for hosting opposition politicians or critical coverage of state policies while ignoring TV programmes in progovernment media which have used an open language of inciting public to violence and polarization until a public outcry broke out.

Unfortunately, these kind of examples damage the appearance of the impartiality of BIK.

We truly believe that a first step toward overcoming this damage rests with transparent reporting on BIK’s decisions on bans and distribution of public ad revenue.

Thank you

Sincerely yours,

Signed by:
Articolo 21
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
German PEN
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa
PEN America
PEN Canada
PEN International
PEN Turkey
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
WAN-IFRA

#freethepoet: A pamphlet about Ilhan Çomak

Ilhan Çomak has been behind bars for 26 years. Read the pamphlet on his case here, including poetry.

Ilhan Sami Çomak reading a book in prison.
Ilhan Sami Çomak. Photo: Private

A life behind bars. Can you imagine? Ilhan Çomak can. The Kurdish-Turkish writer has spent 26 years in prison. In a booklet prepared by Norwegian PEN’s Turkey advisor Caroline Stockford, you can read some of the beautiful poetry by Çomak, as well as his story as told by himself and others.

Download the pamphlet here.

904 days in prison: Free the political hostage Osman Kavala

Norwegian PEN President calls for Turkish civil society leader Kavala to be released from 904 days’ detention.
Den tyrkiske filantropen og aktivisten Osman Kavala ble arrestert 1. november 2017. Foto: Bianet

As of today, the civil society leader Osman Kavala has been in prison, in pre-trial detention for 904 days. Although he was acquitted of the fantastic charges in the Gezi case on February 19th 2020, he was rearrested that night and remains in prison in Silivri, Istanbul. The prosecutor of the Republic is now preparing a new indictment for a case against Kavala on espionage charges. The prosecutor is trying to infer that the Open Society Foundation grants to Turkey were used by Kavala to use overseas finance an attempt to destroy the Turkish constitutional order The Prosecutor for the Republic took over 1.5 years to prepare the indictment in the Gezi trial. To all the independent observers, public, lawyers, indeed anyone who followed the Gezi case it is clear that there is no justifiable legal reasoning behind any of the charges against Kavala. He is being held as a political hostage by the current regime. The European Court ruled strongly on December 10th, 2019, while Kavala was a defendant in the Gezi trial, that his incarceration was both politically motivated and a clear infringement of his rights to liberty and security and hist right to a fair trial.

Norwegian PEN monitored all 6 public hearings of the Gezi trial in Silivri prison in 2019 and 2020.

We call upon the government of Turkey to drop this charade and to uphold the rule of law.  Osman Kavala must be released immediately. His pretrial detention is illegal, unjustified and in light of the current threats to prisoners posed by the COVID-19 virus, is a danger to his health. Kavala is a civil society leader whose foundation has enabled hundreds of art and literature projects to be realised, forging artistic friendships between Turkey and Europe. The nationalist element in Turkey’s government seem to see any cooperation with Europe as suspicious, and yet Turkey’s judicial system itself benefits from European Commission grants for training in human rights and other areas.

Kavala must be freed forthwith and compensated for the 904 days stolen from him. We will continue to monitor the current bogus case against him and will study the forthcoming indictment very closely. The fact that there are so few media sources that are able to hold the government to account goes to show the press freedom is still a critical concern in Turkey. We call for the restoration of the rule of law and for press freedom in Turkey and for the release on bail of all political prisoners during the current pandemic. Free Osman Kavala.

What can you do? Write to Osman with a few words of support: 

Osman Kavala
Silivri Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
9 No’lu Cezaevi, A-7 / C 59
34570, Silivri/Istanbul
TURKEY

Please only include words of support for Kavala in your letter, as political messages are usually censored by the prison.

Read more about Osman Kavala on the campaign site

Narges Mohammadi fyller 47 år i fengsel

Den iranske journalisten og menneskrettighetsaktivisten Narges Mohammadi fyller år i fengsel. Skriv til henne!, oppfordrer Asieh Amini.

Bla ned på siden for å lese teksten på persisk/Scroll down to read the text in Persian

I dag, 20. april, har Norsk PENs æresmedlem Narges Mohammadi bursdag. Hun fyller 47 år i fengselet i Zanjan i Iran, langt fra barna Kiana og Ali, langt fra mannen, foreldrene, familie og venner som feirer dagen uten henne. Hun sitter alene i fengselet og kan kun fantasere om hvordan bursdagsfeiringen kunne ha vært. Men kanskje hjelper ikke en gang fantasien for å fremskaffe bildene.

Mens koronaviruset herjer er ikke de politiske fangene trygge i fengsel. Den iranske staten slipper ikke ut politiske fanger til hjemmekarantene. Folk dømt for økonomisk korrupsjon og andre kriminelle har blitt innvilget midlertidig løslatelse, men denne muligheten gjelder ikke Narges Mohammadi, Nasrin Sotoudeh og mange andre fanger som er dømt til lange fengselsstraffer kun på grunn av ting de har skrevet, har sagt eller har tenkt. Det er ytringsfriheten som forhindrer Narges fra å se barna sine på bursdagen sin i karantene.

14. april skrev Narges’ mor sitt fjerde brev til lederen av Høyesterett i Iran og ba ham hjelpe datteren. Hun skrev at Narges’ liv er i fare, akkurat som de andre fangenes liv er i fare. Hun deler celle med kriminelle fanger.

Hun skrev: “Narges forteller at koronaviruset gjør situasjonen mye vanskelige for alle, både fysisk og psykisk. Fangene får ikke møte familiemedlemmer, det er forbudt. Mødre kan ikke treffe barna sine. Fangene har ikke nok mat, frukt og grønnsaker. De har ingen mulighet til å trene aller andre aktiviteter, de har ingen form for underholdning.»

Narges sier: «Siden jeg ble tvangssendt til dette fengselet for tre og en halv måned siden, har jeg vært vitne til mange slagsmål. Men situasjonen nå er forskjellig og verre enn noensinne. For noen dager siden kuttet en fange over blodåren med en kniv rett foran alles øyne. Det var forferdelig! En annen truer meg og andre medfanger med kniv. Alle er veldig sinte og urolige.»

Hva kan vi gjøre? Det samme som når et av våre egne familiemedlemmer er i trøbbel. Skriv for å hjelpe henne! Skriv til den iranske staten og be dem om å la Narges få komme hjem. Skriv i sosiale medier eller der du tror det kan hjelpe, men skriv! Ikke vær taus – Narges trenger å høre «gratulerer med dagen!» , hun som sitter i en mørk, mørk celle i Zanjan.

Av Asieh Amini, styremedlem i Norsk PEN, medlem i Komiteen for Fengslede Forfattere.

Om Narges Mohammadi

Norsk PENs æresmedlem Narges Mohammadi opplevde å bli undertrykket og sensurert for første gang som student. I Iran ble hun utestengt fra å drive med hobbyen fjellklatring, og arrestert for å være med i en reformvennlig valgkampanje. Senere ble alle reformistiske magasiner og aviser hun skrev for stengt av domstolene. Selv om Mohammadi egentlig utdannet seg til å bli fysiker, er hun mest kjent som journalist og menneskerettighetsforkjemper. Mohammadi har blant annet jobbet i Center for Human Rights, grunnlagt av fredsprisvinner Shirin Ebadi. I 2009 fikk Mohammadi forbud mot å engasjere seg for menneskerettigheter – noe hun nektet å gå med på. Siden den gang har hun vært fengslet i flere omganger, og i 2019 var det alvorlig internasjonal bekymring for Mohammadis helsetilstand. Hun ble akutt syk, men fikk ikke nødvendig medisinsk tilsyn og behandling i Evin-fengselet. Norsk PENs Komité for Fengslede Forfattere sendte i 2019 et brev til Irans president og ba om frifinnelse av Mohammadi.

Twenty-four rights-groups call on Turkey to release all those arbitrarily detained, now at risk of Covid-19

Osman Kavala

In the early hours of Tuesday 14 April, the Turkish Parliament passed a law which will lead to the release of up to 90,000 prisoners. However, it excludes scores of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians, lawyers and others arbitrarily detained pending trial or serving sentences following unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws which facilitate incarceration for exercise of free speech.

While we welcome any measures taken to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons, the new measures unjustifiably exclude tens of thousands who are imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights.  ARTICLE 19, Punto24 and the 22 undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to take immediate steps to fulfill their human rights obligations by releasing all those arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and help mitigate the threat caused by the Covid-19 public health pandemic

The adoption of the law, which is part of the government’s judicial reform strategy announced in 2019, was fast-tracked in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons. The new law comes into force as Turkey’s Justice Ministry has announced the death of three prisoners from Covid-19 on 13 April. The new law does not apply to individuals in pre-trial detention and also excludes anyone convicted of terrorism-related crimes, espionage or crimes against the intelligence services – laws which are frequently used to prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and others. This means many thousands of individuals whose only crime is the exercise of their right to freedom of expression are effectively excluded from release and are at increased risk of contracting the disease in prison.

Among them are Ahmet Altan, 70, who is awaiting appeal after being sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member”, on the basis of his expression of political views, his previous role as editor of Taraf newspaper, and alleged contacts. It also includes businessman Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for over two and a half years, currently on the charge of “espionage” and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in prison since November 2016 and whose release has been repeatedly blocked despite a European Court decision ordering it. Journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser, were remanded in prison in March, on charges under the Law on National Intelligence Agency, in connection with their reporting on the death of an intelligence officer in Libya.

Turkey is subject to the authority of both the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the European Committee on the Prevention on Torture who respectively have issued calls to “reduce prison populations and other detention populations, wherever possible” and said concerted efforts by all relevant authorities to resort to alternatives to deprivation of liberty “ is imperative, in particular, in situations of overcrowding.”

We likewise urge the Turkish authorities to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation, which strongly recommends States give enhanced consideration to non-custodial measures at all stages of the administration of criminal justice, including at the pre-trial, trial and sentencing as well as post-sentencing stages. It also urges priority be given to conditional release, particularly for older persons, ill people, and others (including pregnant women) with specific risks related to Covid-19. The WHO has made it clear that without taking urgent measures in prisons to reduce the spread of the virus, efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 in the community are also likely to fail.

The Turkish courts frequently justify pre-trial detention on the grounds of flight risk or tampering with evidence. Given the closure of borders due to the pandemic, it is difficult to see what justification there is for holding individuals in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods in what is now an extremely high risk situation.

To protect the human rights of prisoners, including their right to life and health, and to protect the health of the public at large, the Turkish authorities should now enact immediate measures to release all those arbitrarily detained, whether in pre-trial detention or after conviction, particularly given many are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to their age or underlying health conditions. We urge the authorities to move now to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Failure to release those detained and imprisoned in unfair trials and on spurious charges, which would help reduce the spread of a deadly disease in detention, would show further alarming disregard for human rights by the Turkish government.

 

Signatories

ARTICLE 19
Punto24, Platform for Independent Journalism
Articolo21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
German PEN
Human Rights Watch
IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Federation of Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN America
PEN International
PEN Turkey
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TSLP)
Wan-Ifra / World Association of News Publishers

Julian Assange er i risikogruppen. Slipp ham ut av fengsel

Onsdag ble Julian Assange nektet løslatelse mot kausjon. Publisisten er i risikogruppen for koronaviruset, og bør slippes ut av fengsel nå.
Julian Assange må løslates fra Belmarsh fengsel.

Presidenten i «Prison Governors Association», Andrea Albutt, har advart om at Covid-19-epidemien vil kreve liv i britiske fengsler. Onsdag 25. mars avleverte Julian Assanges advokater en søknad om at han bør løslates mot kausjon.

Covid-19-trusselen mot innsatte i fengsler er reell. Så langt har 13 personer fått påvist viruset i britiske fengsler.

– Kravet fra Julian Assanges advokater er både betimelig og helt nødvendig for å beskytte hans helse. Det er en kjent sak at Assanges helsetilstand er dårlig. Han har en kronisk lungesykdom og tilhører risikogruppen. Assange må løslates, sier Norsk PENs nestleder, Rune Ottosen.

Dommer Vanessa Baraitser var uenig i advokatenes påstander, og avslo kravet om løslatelse mot kausjon. Det begrunnet dommeren i at fengselet håndterte koronarisikoen, og at hun mente fluktfaren hvis Assange slippes ut er reell.

– Hadde Assange blitt behandlet som en vanlig fange, ville han vært løslatt allerede. Det formelle grunnlaget for fengslingen av ham gjelder brudd på kausjonsbestemmelsene da han søkte tilflukt i den ecuadorianske ambassaden i 2012. Selv etter maksimumsstraffen i lovverket, ville Assange ha blitt løslatt i 2019. Han er nå å regne som en politiske fange, sier Ottosen.

Utleveringssaken mot Julian Assange skal etter planen fortsette med en tre uker lang høring i Woolwich Crown Court fra 18. mai. På grunn av koronaepidemien frykter flere at rettssaken kan utsettes, mens Assange fortsatt holdes fengslet under tunge vilkår i Belmarsh fengsel.

– Flere leger og FNs spesialrapportør for tortur, Nils Melzer, har konkludert med at Assange har blitt utsatt for psykisk tortur. Vi som var til stede under høringene for en måned siden, kunne se at han var i dårlig forfatning. Faren for å bli smittet av Covid-19 er en tilleggsbelastning. Assange bør slippe ut og få skikkelig legebehandling, sier Ottosen.

Første uke med høringer mot Julian Assange er over

USA hevder han er en kriminell. Assanges advokater mener det handler om ytringsfrihet. Første uke i Woolwich Crown Court er over. Hva skjedde?
Utenfor rettsbygningen var det tilløp til håndgemeng for å komme inn på rettssakens første dag. Foto: Norsk PEN/Katarina Goldfain Johnsen

Denne uken startet første runde med høringer i utleveringsaken mot Wikileaks-grunnlegger Julian Assange i London. Norsk PEN var til stede med to observatører: Nestleder Rune Ottosen og kommunikasjonsrådgiver Katarina Goldfain Johnsen.

Det ble en en
rystende affære
: Å komme inn i bygningen som publikummer var omtrent umulig. Det var satt av 20 plasser til tilhørere, med hundrevis av mennesker som kjempet om de samme setene. Journalister kunne krangle seg til en plass i tilhørende presserom der rettssaken ble liveoverført på skjerm. Her var det rot med akkrediteringer, journalister ventet i timesvis på å komme inn, lyden var elendig og falt til tider bort.

Verst var det å se Julian Assange: Han satt i et eget bur, flankert av to vektere. Assange fikk ikke sitte sammen med sine advokater, og kunne knapt kommunisere med disse. Tilbake i fengselet etter rettssakens første dag ble han nektet tilgang til rettsdokumenter, lagt i håndjern elleve ganger, avkledd og kroppsvisitert to ganger, flyttet rundt på ulike celler. Forsvaret leverte en klage dagen etter, men dommeren mente fengselet var utenfor hennes jurisdiksjon.

Publisisten Julian Assange står i USA tiltalt for brudd på deres spionasjelov fra 1917. Loven er ikke brukt tidligere, før den de seneste årene har blitt tatt i bruk over ti ganger. Nå vil USA ha den australske statsborgeren utlevert fra Storbritannia. De hevder Assange har hjulpet varsleren Chelsea Manning med å hente ut hemmelige dokumenter, samt at Wikileaks har satt liv i fare gjennom publisering av nevnte dokumenter. Begge anklagene ble tilbakevist fra Assanges advokater, som mener dette er en ytringsfrihetssak.

Det er Norsk PEN enige i. Dokumentene USA reagerer på viser krigsforbrytelser utført av amerikanske soldater i Irak og Afghanistan. Takket være Wikileaks fikk verden vite om dette. Saken om Julian Assange handler til syvende og sist om: Skal man ha lov til å publisere sann informasjon fra en varsler?

Det mener vi man skal. Du kan høre Rune Ottosen forklare hvorfor i Nyhetsmorgen, eller Katarina Goldfain Johnsen i Studio 2.

På denne Twitter-listen
fra Courage Foundation
kan du se hva som skjedde i rettssalen denne uken. Journalisten Kevin Gosztola tvitret også jevnlig. Eks-ambassadør Craig Murrays blogg kan også anbefales for å få et blikk fra tilhørerbenken.

Norsk PEN vil fortsette å følge saken mot Julian Assange. De neste høringene i saken går fra 18. mai til 5. juni. Norsk PEN kommer til å være til stede.