Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019 – Take Action for Nedim Türfent

By | November 15, 2019 at 4:07 pm | No comments | News

News editor, reporter and poet Nedim Türfent is serving an eight-year-and-nine-month prison sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges following an unfair trial, during which 19 witnesses said they had been tortured into testifying against him. Arrested in May 2016 after covering military clashes in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast of Turkey, Nedim Türfent spent almost two years in solidarity confinement, treatment tantamount to torture under UN standards. Despite blatant violations of his right to a fair trial, he was sentenced to jail in December 2017; his verdict was upheld by a Regional Appeals Court in June 2018, and by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Cassation in October 2019. The Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights have yet to rule on his case. Determined to keep writing, Nedim Türfent started composing poetry in prison. PEN International believes that he is being held solely for peacefully expressing his views and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

 

Zehra Doğan writes to Nedim Türfent

Dear Nedim,

I’m writing you this letter from Paris. I’m sitting next to a little decorative pool. I’m exhibiting the paintings that I made during the period that I was hiding from the police. I just realised that I had many weird periods in my life. I just didn’t have the chance to paint in those cool workshops yet.

When I was imprisoned I was always describing to you the paintings that I made and you were sending me the poems that you wrote. When I recall those memories, I feel that they were good days despite also being the worst days. It’s because we turned that hell into heaven by sharing art.

Writing to you from lands far away makes me feel strange. We were writing long letters to each other. We were in the same conditions and our communication felt more real because of this. Now I find it hard to write a letter to you. It’s either because I can’t accept your captivity or because I can’t accept my defective freedom. I think I feel embarrassed because I’m not in the same condition with my imprisoned friends.

Since I left the prison, I’ve seen many countries. Wherever I went, I saw you. PEN members all over the world are telling your story, spreading your discourse. There are many people standing in solidarity with you. I saw your photograph last week on the door of a church in Berlin. They wrote “Freedom for Nedim” under it. I just smiled and had a good feeling. You can’t imagine in how many places I come across you. You don’t even let people have some private time with God in church!

Your book will soon be published and I painted the cover of it with great pride. With the book, your words will spread even more.

Now I’m outside but I’d like you to know that once humans experience prison, they can’t ever be free again. One part of me always feels in prison, it makes my heart ache. This feeling starts in the morning and it lasts all day. Unless everyone is free, no one will be free, I understand this better now. Because I have the scar of the prison’s barbed wire in my heart, it keeps this thought alive all the time and helps me struggle more.

Say hi to everyone and I’m hugging you with longing.

Zehra

 

TAKE ACTION

Please send appeals:

  • Urging the Turkish authorities to release Nedim Türfent immediately and unconditionally;
  • Calling on the Turkish authorities to end the prosecution and detention of journalists simply on the basis of the content of their writing or alleged affiliations, and to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Send appeals to:

Minister of Justice
Abdulhamit Gül
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlığı
06659 Ankara
Turkey

Send copies to the Embassy of Turkey in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-of/turkey .

Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Turkey, calling on them to raise Nedim Türfent’s case in bilateral fora.

Please inform PEN of any action you take and of any responses you receive.

Publicity

We encourage PEN members to continue to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Nedim Türfent and freedom of expression in Turkey;
  • Share information about Nedim Türfent and your campaigning activities via social media; please use #FreeNedim #FreeTurkeyMedia #ImprisonedWriter;
  • Organise public events and poetry readings. His poem “Let my heart give life” is available here, translated into several languages.

Social Media: Please use the hashtags #FreeNedim #FreeTurkeyMedia #ImprisonedWriter

Share information about Nedim Türfent and your campaigning activities for him via social media.

Suggested tweets:

  • Release Nedim Türfent immediately and unconditionally #FreeNedim #FreeTurkeyMedia #ImprisonedWriter
  • On Day of the #ImprisonedWriter join PEN and take action for reporter and poet Nedim Türfent #FreeNedim #FreeTurkeyMedia #ImprisonedWriter {insert RAN link}

Solidarity

Nedim Turfent has repeatedly thanked the PEN community for its solidarity campaign:

‘Yours efforts are invaluable in being the voice of the voiceless. If I did not hereby reiterate my thanks to PEN’s efforts as the primary liberating locomotive of literature and arts, I would not be able to rest my head on my “pillow” on this iron bunkbed with ease. On this iron bunkbed, your solidarity will continue to be beside me, I believe this wholeheartedly.’ [Extract of a letter written in September 2019].

‘I want you to know that your letters, which have rendered iron curtains meaningless and ineffective, have filled my two-step-long cell with resistance, resolve and hope. At this time when I am still able to have access to this pencil and paper, I am amateurishly sharing my feelings of gratitude and humbleness, and I would be most delighted if you accept it.’ (Extract of a letter written in March 2019).

‘Dear PEN Members, we would like to express our eternal gratitude for every act of solidarity that you have carried out so far or you plan to in the future. While some people try to stifle our pens with a pile of grave earth, we will continue to hold them and produce. We would like to remind you that when the taste of solidarity is still within the reach of our hands, we will continue to write our reports, stories, novels and poems, line by line, letter by letter.’ (Extract of a letter written in December 2018).

We are very grateful to PEN members for their continued support. Please keep sending solidarity messages in English, German, Turkish or Kurdish, to:

Nedim Türfent
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli
Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
Koğuş A-44
Van
Turkey

Please consider electing Nedim Türfent as an Honorary Member of your Centre.

Background 

A news editor and reporter at the now-shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), 29 year-old Nedim Türfent was arrested on 12 May 2016 after covering clashes between the Turkish army and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey. He had notably received the prestigious Musa Anter journalism award for a story covering a military operation in the Kurdish city of Yüksekova, where a group of soldiers reportedly handcuffed and pinned 50 villagers face down, yelling slurs such as ‘you will witness the power of the Turk’.

Nedim Türfent spent nearly two years in solidarity confinement, during which time he was transferred to several prisons. In a letter dated 8 May 2017, he reported harrowing detention conditions in his four-meter-long prison cell, where he was denied access to TV, radio, books or newspapers and forced to read ‘the back of detergent boxes’ to pass time. According to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, prolonged solitary confinement amounts to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and must not be imposed under any circumstances.

Nedim Türfent was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’ 10 months after his arrest. Among the reasons listed in his indictment were his social media posts, his news reporting and 20 concealed witness testimonies. His first hearing was held in Hakkari on 14 June 2017, some 200km away from Van where he was being detained. Nedim Türfent 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. Despite such clear evidence of flagrant fair trial violations, Nedim Türfent was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’ on 15 December 2017.

The verdict was upheld by the Erzurum Regional Appeals Court on 19 June 2018 and by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Cassation in October 2019. Nedim Türfent’s lawyers filed an application before the Turkish Constitutional Court in July 2018, and the European Court of Human Rights on 4 February 2019; both have yet to rule on the case. While waiting for his appeal, Nedim Türfent spends his time studying Turkish, English and German and writing poetry.

PEN International launched a solidarity campaign with Nedim Türfent in December 2018, making him a priority case for the organisation. In February 2019, over 600 people, including scores of members from 25 PEN Centres, signed a global appeal calling for his immediate and unconditional release. Nedim Türfent featured in this year’s PEN World Poetry Day, with one of his poems translated into 18 languages.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. At least 130 journalists remained behind bars at the time of writing. Although the situation has deteriorated dramatically since the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, Nedim Türfent’s case highlights the significance of the arrests made prior to the coup. Freedom of expression in Turkey has long been under attack and that as many as 30 journalists were in prison before July 2016. For more information about the state of freedom of expression in Turkey, and how the Turkish authorities continue their relentless crackdown on civic space, media freedom and dissenting voices, please click here.

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