Turkey: Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, and the Ergenekon Trials
On March 12 international press freedom organizations celebrated the release of renowned Turkish investigative journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener after one year’s incarceration. They remain on trial with 11 reporters from the website OdaTV for being suspected members of Ergenekon, an alleged terrorist organization accused of overthrowing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of the Turkish government using terror and disinformation.
Şık and Şener both believe their arrests and imprisonment are acts of censorship and results of their accusations against police and judiciary in their investigative writing. Both deny Ergenekon affiliation, and both deny ever supporting it. Şener believes his arrest is directly related to his investigative writing on the murder of Hrant Dink in 2007, in which he implicates authority figures as responsible for the death. Şik believes that he was arrested because of his recent unfinished book alleging a second deep state within Turkey known as the Gülen movement, a secretive Muslim civil society with political power and media influence that he believes has infiltrated security forces and holds sway over the Ergenekon trials, and has sympathizers who were guilty of Dink’s murder according to Şener. The arrest of well known human rights journalists Şık and Şener on March 3 led to public protest of thousands.
Over the past four years, the Ergenekon investigations have led to series of arrests of figures in military, politics, police, press, and academia. In light of the recent number of arrests under Turkey’s anti-terrorism law it seems that the investigation has changed from an effort to preserve Turkey’s democracy to a way of suppressing political opposition. It is estimated that 104 journalists remain imprisoned in Turkey – a statistic that surpasses both China and Iran.
“This is not just about press freedom, this is about freedom of expression,” said Şık, after his release. Şener declared, “The truth cannot be imprisoned.” Both journalists vowed to continue their work despite prosecution and persecution – including an anonymous death threat from Twitter on March 16. The next hearing is June 18, a few days after the parliamentary elections on June 12.
Who is Ahmet Şık?
Ironically, Ahmet Şık is credited for beginning the official Ergenekon investigation. In April 2007 he and his colleagues at Nokta magazine published “The Coup Diaries” which contained alleged extracts of a diary exposing a plot by military leaders to overthrow the government. Turkey’s deep states have since been the subject of Şık’s reporting.
His latest unfinished work was The Imam’s Army, a book about the Gülen movement as a second deep state. Şık’s work was abruptly halted after police raided his home, seized the manuscript, destroyed it, and attempted to rid all trace of it, saying that anyone possessing it would also face charges of abetting terrorism. Nevertheless, The Imam’s Army was published online, and downloaded thousands of times. When Committee to Protect Journalists asked about his arrest, Şık answered, “When you consider the reason for my arrest was a book which featured journalistic work, of course this is censorship.”
Undaunted, upon his release Şık was reported to declare, “The police, prosecutors, and judges who set up and carried out this conspiracy will enter this prison. Justice will come when they enter here. Those men connected to religious communities and gangs will enter here.” This comment was construed as a threat to the prosecution and judiciary, and incited further investigation.
Who is Nedim Şener?
As a reporter for the daily Milliyet Nedim Şener worked to expose financial and government corruption for almost 20 years. He is best known for his writing on the murder of Hrant Dink, the former editor of Agos newspaper, who was shot outside his office on January 19, 2007. Şener has written in several articles and a few books that Dink’s murder was anticipated by threats and calls for protection that security forces did not act upon, and that those responsible may have been linked to Ergenekon and the Gülen movement. For his work on Dink’s murder Şener has been prosecuted and threatened, but also received international acclaim. He won the 2010 International Press Institute World Press Freedom Hero award, and the PEN international prize in 2011.
Upon his release, Şener thanked the international support “During those hard days my staying power was my loyalty to the truth. The International Press Institute (IPI), which recognized my loyalty and supported me from the very moment I was arrested to the day I was released from prison, was my greatest power.”
Send an appeal for Şık and Şener’s case through PEN International.