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Abdullah Bozkurt faces arrest warrants on bogus charges

Abdullah Bozkurt, Swedish-based investigative journalist, Erdoğan

World

Abdullah Bozkurt faces arrest warrants on bogus charges

Turkey has issued five arrest warrants for Swedish-based investigative journalist Abdullah Bozkurt on defamation and terrorism charges, ratcheting up the intimidation campaign that targets exiled journalists critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Bozkurt, director of the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network, a non-profit organization based in Stockholm, has long been in the crosshairs of the Turkish government and its proxies because of critical articles and research papers that exposed the Erdoğan government’s links to jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He had to flee Turkey in 2016 to escape wrongful imprisonment on fabricated charges and sought shelter in Sweden, a country with a robust tradition when it comes to protecting freedom of expression and the press.

Documents obtained by Nordic Monitor indicate that four arrest warrants for Bozkurt are based on defamation and one on the counterterrorism laws, the two most frequently abused penal code articles that the Erdoğan government invokes to hunt down critical, independent and opposition journalists in Turkey and abroad.

President Erdoğan has filed a record number of insult and defamation lawsuits against journalists who write or speak critically of him or his government and has branded them as terrorists and traitors on bogus charges. Under political pressure from the government, Turkish prosecutors investigated 128,872 people for insulting Erdoğan between 2014 and 2019, an unprecedented number compared to past presidents, who rarely resorted to criminal complaints on accusations of defamation.

The four outstanding arrest warrants issued for Bozkurt on insult and defamation charges concern Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) Article 125, which calls for up to two years’ imprisonment for insult. The warrant on the terrorism charge is based on Article 314, which refers to the crime of forming or leading an armed terrorist organization. It carries upto 15 years’ imprisonment. More charges are expected to pile up against Bozkurt, who made clear that he would not yield to the intimidation tactics employed by the Erdoğan government and vowed to continue to write and speak up on matters of public interest.

Bozkurt’s investigative articles have exposed the Turkish intelligence agency’s links to armed jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and ISIS, revealed the corrupt family schemes of President Erdoğan and his government’s clandestine business with the Iranian regime and the Quds Force.

He has received multiple threats to his life, most anonymous through social media and some by well-known figures close to the Erdoğan government. Mesut Hakkı Caşın, the Turkish president’s advisor on security and foreign policy, openly threatened him with murder on live TV, broadcast by a national television network, saying Turkish intelligence would find him and feed him to the sharks.

Speaking during a debate program on CNN Türk on January 15, 2021, a pro-government media outlet, Caşın, apparently frustrated with Bozkurt’s reports on Turkey, targeted the journalist and said Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) would find him and punish him.

“Turkish national intelligence will find him, I’ll tell you that. I don’t know whether MIT will feed him to the fish or the sharks [as a murder tactic], but traitors always get their punishment some day,” he said. He accused him of treachery and spying for others, vowing that Turks will punish Bozkurt and find him even if he goes to a hell hole.

In December 2016 Cem Küçük, a government propagandist with close ties to the Turkish interior and justice ministers, called for MIT to assassinate Bozkurt. Speaking on TGRT TV, a loyalist government media outlet, Küçük said Bozkurt’s home address in Stockholm was known by Turkish authorities and demanded the “extermination” of the journalist.

“No need to beat around the bush anymore. Where they [critical journalists] live is known, including their addresses abroad. Let’s see what happens if several of them get exterminated. How terrified would they be if you put a bullet into the heads of some [critical] journalists,” he said.

Speaking about Bozkurt, Küçük said that “his home address is known by the [Turkish] state,” prompting the other guest, Fuat Uğur, to say, “They mustn’t be able to live comfortably wherever they are.” In response Küçük, said: “Right. Kill three or five of them and see what happens. Turkish intelligence agency MIT now has the authority [to carry out killings] abroad.”

Küçük was investigated in Turkey in the past over Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force activities in Turkey, and Bozkurt’s writings on the Quds Force’s clandestine operations apparently bothered him.

On September 24, 2020 Bozkurt was attacked by three unidentified men near his home in Stockholm. He suffered scrapes and bruises to his face, arms and legs and was treated at a local hospital and then released. The investigation into the incident is still pending.

Turkey is ranked 153rd among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 17, 2021. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.

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