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Turkey Detains Two Kurdish Journalists Over Terror Allegations

Two Kurdish reporters have been detained in Turkey over terrorism accusations, days ahead of that country’s May 14 presidential election considered to be the biggest electoral challenge faced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his two decades in power.

Sedat Yilmaz, an editor at the Mesopotamia News Agency (MA), and Dicle Muftuoglu, co-chair of the Dicle Firat Journalists Association, were taken into custody last week as part of an investigation by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Yilmaz’s wife, Selma, and his sister Filiz Yilmaz were also detained.

The journalists and their loved ones were detained in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir province.

The move came two days after four other Kurdish journalists were arrested by a Diyarbakir court over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

In a written statement, the prosecutor’s office announced that 49 people in 15 provinces were detained because of “their activities in the ‘center for ideological space’ for the terrorist organization’s so-called goals of ‘independent, united Kurdistan.’” The detainees were taken to an Ankara police station for depositions.

Yilmaz and Muftuoglu were not able to access their lawyers for 24 hours.

“As successors of a tradition that has been continuing for more than 30 years, they are trying to silence us once again,” Muftuoglu said in a handwritten statement shared via her lawyer after they met.

“Despite those who have been trying to criminalize us with similar operations for years, our pursuit of truth continues. No obstruction can shadow the truth. We call on all our colleagues to defend journalism against all these operations, which attempt to silence us,” Muftuoglu added.

Other arrests

Jin News reporter Beritan Canozer, journalist Remzi Akkaya, MA editor Abdurrahman Gok and MA reporter Mehmet Sah Oruc were taken into custody in coordinated dawn raids last week, in which Turkish police detained at least 128 people in 21 cities.

Among those detained are 10 journalists, a lawyer representing arrested Kurdish journalists in other court cases and members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, the third-biggest party in the Turkish parliament.

Media rights groups have voiced concern over the arrests of journalists in Turkey.

A Turkish security source told the Reuters news agency that the suspects were accused of providing financing, recruiting and spreading propaganda for the PKK.

Lawyer Resul Temur and MA reporter Ahmet Kanbal were released last Friday.

Mahmut Bozarslan contributed to this story from Diyarbakir.