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After his beginnings  as a distributor for  Özgür Gündem for seven months, Ziya Ataman then worked as an apprentice journalist for the DIHA news agency until its prohibition and shutting downby law-decree on October 30 2016, as was the case for several other media.

While following a demonstration in his capacity as a journalist in the Eastern Turkish town of Van, Ziya was taken into custody on April 10 2016, and incarcerated the following day, on allegations of “belonging to a terrorist organization”.

The formal indictment was only filed in December 2017, some 20 months after Ataman’s arrest.

Along with 19 other people, Ziya is on trial before the Court in Şırnak for “breach of the peace and offence against State security”, “attempted premeditated murder against a State official”, “damage by explosives to public goods”, “illegal possession of weapons and explosives”, etc…The prosecutor is calling for a life sentence to be served in full, the substitute to the death sentence which was abolished in Turkey in 2002.

Witnesses have claimed that Ziya Ataman was part of illegal attacks on the town by the PKK and these statements were used against him. One of the witnesses, who is also a relative of Ataman’s, later filed an official objection to his previous statement, admitting he had signed the declaration “under threats and torture”. But the official ignored the objection, and only took into account his initial statement.

Ziya appeared before the tribunal for the first time on March 2 2018, after close to two years in preventive detention. At the second hearing, he was unable to present his defense due to technical problems in connecting the court with his cell through SEGBIS, Turkey’s legal videoconference system. The tribunal then rejected his request for release and ordered another hearing for August 7.

On August 7 2018, Ziya participated from his cell in the hearinb via SEGBIS videoconferencing. His lawyers asked if any inquiry had been made into the statement by the witness concerning the threats and torture to which he had been subjected to obtain his signature. The prosecutor declared no such inquiry had been opened and demanded that the journalist’s detention be maintained.

At the fifth hearing on January 17 2019, Ziya again participated through videoconfering from his cell in the closed Type M prison in Van. One of the witnesses, who is also imprisoned in another case, declared his statement had been obtained under influence and retracted his testimony.

On March 26 2019, Ziya was again presented to the court via SEGBIS. Having begun a hunger strike in jail on March 1st, Ziya Ataman requested to plead for his defence in Kurdish. The court demanded that Ataman have a translator on hand for the next hearing and adjourned the matter until May 28, date at which the prosecutor was to provide his final opinion.

Since his incarceration, 8 hearings have been held in Ziya’s case.

As a useful reminder, and as in a number of other trials, judges and prosecutors who first opened the inquest against him have since been fired for belonging to the Brotherhood, Fethullah Gülen’s organization renamed “FETÖ” by Erdoğan since the falling out with his former friend, and now enemy. But, showing no qualms in the matter, judges and prosecutors at the orders of the regime pursue the work begun by their predecessors.

Today, July 13 2019 marks the 1, 188th day Ziya has been in prison. The 2 year maximum limit on preventive incarcerations has long been exceeded, but Ziya is still in jail. He now awaits his next hearing, scheduled for September 24 2019 at the court in Şırnak.

Moreover, Ziya’s health problems complicate his situation. Prior to his arrest, he was already suffering from a serious intestinal disorder. He was being treated and this incurable disease was under control. Now, under prison conditions and extremely limited access to treatment, his illness is progression in a critical way. His lawyers declare that all requests concerning Ziya Ataman’s health have been rejected by the administration of Van prison.

Ziya’s case was brought before the National Assembly by HDP deputy for Mardin, Tuma Çelik. His lawyers have also requested an opinion from the European Tribunal of Human Rights (CEDH). According to his lawyers, the CEDH considers a violation of prisoners’ right any preventive incarceration prolonged beyond one and a half years.  The lawyers hope for a favorable decision from the CEDH. But meanwhile, Ziya is behind bars.

In letters  addressed to the media, Ziya has said that, while awaiting and hoping for his release, he wishes to have access to medical treatment and a transfer to the quarters where his friend Nedim Türfent is being held. Also a journalist with the DIHA news agency, Nedim Türfent is also wrongy accused of “belonging to a terrorist organization” and has been sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison.

Ataman’s lawyer, Barış Oflas, encourages the public to send letters to the Ministry of Justice and to the Directorate of Prisons, demanding  improvement of medical access for Ziya,

A petition has also been launched recently on inviting signatures for Ziya Ataman’ release.

The text of the petition is in Turkish, the translation follows below. Do not hesitate in signing. So far the petition is short of 1 000 signatures. Recently, Ziya published the following message on his Twitter account, with the help of his lawyers and relatives:

“I am Ziya Ataman, journalist. I have been incarcerated for close to 3 years. Doctors have told me my intestines are failing. The prosecutor demands perpetuity. What will kill me won’t be the disease, but neglect. Perhaps solidarity will save me. I believe in solidarity and in hope.”

 The text of the petition :

Freedom for the journalist and ill prisoner, Ziya Ataman

We demand the liberation of journalist Ziya Ataman detained for over three years, despite an absence of concrete evidence, and in whom doctors have diagnosed intestinal failure.

Detained for over three years on the basis of a witness statement obtained under torture, Ziya Ataman’s health is deteriorating on a daily basis. Through Ataman’s lack of health care in the prison, freedom of the press is under judgment in the country. While principles for an equitable judgment are violated in an obvious and indisputable way, the sentence required against Ataman of “incompressible perpetuity” is an monument to the violation of Law.

We wish to see the disappearance of this situation that has turned into a shameful show against Law and human rights, and  demand that Ziya Ataman recover conditions for adequate care in a free environment.

The current judgment is neither moral, nor legal, and gravely offends conscience.

We do not understand the silence surrounding this situation by  a number of press institutions, media and human rights organizations.  In a region were hundreds of rights violations are committed every day, such a heavy violation should not be ignored. Solidarity against this type of violation should increase through the person of journalist Ataman. We must be the voice of those held behind bars.

No doubt current conditions impede many actions but, sometimes, a simple signature can change many things.  

With hope and  solidarity,

We send warm greetings to the signatories.

To sign: HERE.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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