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Campaigns demand freedom of ‘forgotten’ Kurdish journalist after 18 years behind bars

CAMPAIGNERS are demanding the release of Turkey’s “forgotten journalist” as the government is set to free 100,000 prisoners amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Hatice Duman, the former editor of socialist newspaper Atilim, is believed to be the world’s longest-jailed reporter. 

She was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison for alleged crimes including “management of a terrorist organisation,” though she has always denied the charges. 

Campaigners argue that, in reality, Ms Duman was targeted for being Kurdish and speaking out against the Turkish state’s repressive policies. 

Journalists for Democracy in Turkey & Kurdistan and Turkey & Kurdistan Solidarity Initiative, British-based groups advocating for human rights in Turkey, have now launched a campaign to win Ms Duman’s release.

“Hatice Duman is Turkey’s forgotten journalist,” they said in a statement.

“Despite being behind bars for nearly 20 years, there has been no high-profile campaign demanding her release, with the international press freedom organisations remaining silent.”

The groups are calling on people to show solidarity with Ms Duman by sending cards for her birthday on April 5 and by joining a social media Twitter “storm” on the same day. 

They hope the campaign will raise the profile of her case, along with those of the 50,000 political prisoners languishing in Turkish jails. 

Ankara announced last week that 100,000 prisoners will be eligible for temporary release to prevent the spread of coronavirus behind bars.

But the provision doesn’t cover any of the country’s jailed journalists or activists, most of whom have been sentenced for terrorism offences without substantial evidence to prove the charges. 

People can write to Hatice Duman, Gebze Women’s Closed Prison, Arapcesme Mah, Sehitonbasi Ontay Cd No:2, 41400 Gebze/Kocaeli, Turkey, with “birthday card” clearly marked on the envelope.

On April 5 people are encouraged to upload video messages and/or photographs using the hashtags #HappyBirthdayHatice #JournalismIsNotACrime #MutluYıllarHatice # #GazetecilikSuçDeğildir. 

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