Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament, and two other members of the group, Nathalie Griesbeck and Marietje Schaake, have written a joint letter to Kadri Gürsel, a Turkish journalist who has been imprisoned since October 2016.
It is the latest letter to be sent by various MEPs to imprisoned Turkish journalists as part of a campaign proposed by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The letter to Gürsel, a well-known newspaper columnist, was preceded by letters to Musa Kart, Ahmet Şık and Nazlı Ilıcak from members of three other European Parliament groups – the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens-EFA) and European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL).
The European People’s Party Group (EPP) is also expected to send a letter soon, bringing to five the number of European Parliament groups taking part in this solidarity initiative.
One of the many journalists now detained in Turkey, Gürsel was arrested along with nine colleagues at the daily Cumhuriyet on 31 October 2016 on a charge of complicity with “the FETÖ terrorist organization” – the government’s name for the movement led by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen that is blamed for the July 2016 coup attempt. He is currently in a high security prison in the Istanbul suburb of Silivri, where he is subjected to a severe regime of isolation.
After being fired from the newspaper Milliyet in 2015 over a tweet blaming President Erdogan for Islamic State terrorism in Turkey, Gürsel joined Cumhuriyet, now one of the few opposition newspapers that still survive in Turkey. As president of the Turkish committee of the International Press Institute, he is free speech champion who has participated in many demonstrations and advocacy missions alongside RSF.
Ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey has experienced an unprecedented crackdown under the state of emergency that was declared after the July 2016 coup attempt.
With more than 100 journalists detained, it is now the world’s biggest prison for media personnel. Since July 2016, nearly 150 media outlets have been closed by decree and more than 775 press cards have been rescinded.