Three more journalists have been arrested in Turkey for revealing the identity of a Turkish intelligence officer, who apparently died in clashes in Libya.
The court formerly ordered the arrests at the request of a prosecutor involved in the case.
Last week columnist Murat Agirel from the pro-Turkish daily Yenicag, executive director Ferhat Celik, and editor-in-chief Aydin Keser from the pro-Kurdish daily Yeni Yasam were released on Friday under judicial supervision.
The arrests follow those of three other journalists from the critical news website OdaTv – editor-in-chief Baris Pehlivan, news director Baris Terkoglu, and reporter Hulya Kilinc – who had been arrested also for revealing the intelligence officer’s ID.
OdaTv’s three have been accused of violating intelligence laws by compromising intelligence operations, and putting the officer’s family members in danger as they published the funeral of slain Turkish intelligence service (MIT) in the western province of Manisa.
The arrest of Yenicag’s Agirel came even though the daily had later removed the report regarding the MIT member from its website.
Prior to his testimony before the prosecutor on Friday, columnist Agirel had posted video footage on Twitter, saying he was expecting such a move by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government after he published a book, Sarmal, in which a dark network within the state was allegedly revealed by him.
Murat Ağırel, tutuklama istemiyle mahkemeye sevk edilmeden bir gün önce yaptığı açıklamada “Ne Yeniçağ’dan bir vatan hainin çıkarabilirsiniz ne de Batuhan Çolak ve Murat Ağırel isminden devlet düşmanı çıkarabilirsiniz. Biz korkmuyoruz sizden” ifadelerini kullanmıştı. pic.twitter.com/gJDmI5ozwW
— Yeniçağ Gazetesi (@Gazete_Yenicag) March 6, 2020
Before his arrest at the Istanbul Caglayan Courthouse on Sunday, the columnist reiterated the same allegations over the “real” reason for his arrest, referring to a think tank, called the Pelicanists, which is allegedly influential within Turkey’s AKP government and on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Definitely, it is not me being arrested here today but it is, unfortunately, the independent Turkish judiciary. [Please] don’t relent! Don’t stop speaking [the truths] never and ever. Don’t be scared [against the power]. The Turkish state is much greater than the Pelicanists,” the journalist said.
Hakkında tutuklama kararı verilen Murat Ağırel'den mesaj, "Korkmayın! Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devleti, Pelikan'dan çok daha büyük. Mustafa Kemal'in devrimlerine sıkı sıkı sarılın." pic.twitter.com/lEXApfgWGJ
— Yeniçağ Gazetesi (@Gazete_Yenicag) March 8, 2020
The Pelican group, which is widely believed to be centered around the Bosphorus Global, is also known for its role in the resignation of Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu after he fell out with Erdogan in 2016. The group had listed Davutoglu’s dissent points with the president at the time.
Similar to Agirel, OdaTv’s director Pehlivan had reportedly pointed out in his plea on Friday that their arrests were not related to the latest funeral news but related to their previous reports which revealed allegedly illegal networks nested in the state.
The arrest decisions on the six journalists came even though the MIT officer’s identity had already been revealed before the reports at a press conference at the Turkish Parliament by Umit Ozdag, a lawmaker from the opposition Good Party (IYI).
IYI’s Istanbul head Bugra Kavuncu tweeted on Sunday, calling for staging a protest in front of daily Yenicag on Monday in solidarity with Agirel.
Yeniçağ gazetesi yazarı Murat Ağırel hakkındaki tutuklama kararını protesto etmek üzere, yarın saat 13.00'da, Yeniçağ gazetesinde bütün teşkilatımız bir araya gelecek.
Bağımsız basına karşı her türlü susturma girişimine boyun eğmeyeceğiz!
— Buğra Kavuncu (@SBugraKavuncu) March 8, 2020
The daily Yeni Yasam published a statement on Sunday regarding the arrests of its two journalists.
“The daily Yeni Yasam will in no circumstances abstain from telling the truth and will thoroughly carry out the duty of informing the public regardless of paying any price,” vowed the daily.
Libya has been in turmoil since the country’s long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s was deposed following a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, with internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) having been struggling to fend off a military offensive by the rival Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by Russia.
Despite the warnings by the United Nations (U.N.) not to deliver external support to the fighting parties in Libya in fear of deepening the ongoing clashes, Erdogan’s Turkey has been providing the GNA with military and technical support.