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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.

Update  — On August 7, 2022 Ziya was forcibly trans­ferred to the high secu­ri­ty prison of Dum­lu, near Erzurum.

Ziya Ata­man
Dum­lu 2. nolu Yük­sek Güven­lik­li Ceza ve İnf­az kurumu
Yaku­tiye — ERZURUM — TURKEY

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.