June 28, 2021
From Kedistan

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Ziya Ataman, an ill journalist and prisoner has been in detention since April 11 2016 in Van’s high-security prison. A preventive incarceration that goes well beyond legal limits, a judgement in the series of the usual Kafkaesque trials in Turkey, a sentence devoid of any real evidence… Ziya’s imprisonnement, given his serious health problems, has become a double sentence…

At first Ziya worked as a distributor for Özgür Gündem, then he spent seven months as an apprentice journalist at the DIHA news agency, until the closing and prohibition of the newspaper by a law-decree on October 30 2016, as was the case for several other media…

On July 13 2019 we published the latest developments and called for solidarity around a petition.

A Summary of the Facts:

Ziya was taken into custody on April 10 2016 while following as journalist a demonstration in the town of Van, in Eastern Turkey. Under the catch-all allegation of “belonging to a terrorist organization”, he was incarcerated the following day, April 11 2016. The definitive indictment was only prepared on December 2017, which is to say almost 20 months following his first arrest. On July 13 2019, after 1 188 days of imprisonment, largely trespassing the 2 year maximum allowed for the preventive incarceration of an accused, Ziya was kept under detention, despite his health problems, further complicating his condition.

Prior to his arrest, he already suffered from a serious intestinal illness. He was under treatment and his incurable illness was under control. Under prison conditions, with extremely limited means and access to medical care, given the conditions of his imprisonment, the illness has progressed in critical fashion.

What has happened since?

In the trial for the many “suspects” accused among other things, of having committed a bomb attack, the last hearing took place in the Şırnak tribunal on September 24 2019. During his defence, Ziya again reminded the jury that the testimony against him was gathered under threats and torture and that the witnesses themselves said so. Indeed, without the “forced testimony”, a very common and unreliable practice, the accusation no longer had anything other than a confiscated agenda as “proof”, an agenda in which Ziya Ataman’s name appeared, among those of close to 500 other people. Ziya asked “Why, if there are 400, 500 names, are only 8,9 persons on trial?” He also underlined his illness and requested his acquittal.

In the end, Ziya Ataman was sentenced to 14 years and 3 months in prison; no consideration being given to his health, he was kept in prison.

In fact, according to the “Report of observations of trials about freedom of expression 2020” published in March 2020 by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) this is the heaviest sentence given for an accusation of ‘belonging”, in Turkey.

The Turkish Journalists Union TGS, organizations for the protection of journalists and the defence of human rights widely reacted to this sentence.

Pandemic, Constitutional Tribunal…

Prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, since Ziya Ataman found himself in the main group at risk, his lawyers sollicited the Constitutional Tribunal in early April 2020, requesting his liberation. Then, the regime announced a new “amnesty pack” liberating close to one hundred thousand prisoners because of the pandemic. The pack excluded all condemnations for premeditated murder, drug trafficking, organized crimes and terrorism; this meant that 97 journalists of the opposition, a majority of them Kurdish, condemned or in preventive incarceration, accused of belonging or of propaganda, were not liberated, despite all appeals and reactions… Ziya Ataman was among them.

Covid-19 risks

In early January 2021, MLSA transmitted a letter Ziya Ataman sent to his doctor:

“I am still in quarantine. Immediately after the previous period of quarantine, I was racked by coughing, with loss of taste and smell. The administration was informed and I was tested. The result proved negative. At the same time, other prisoners in my block presented the same symptoms. They were also tested. One of the results proved positive.

Shortly thereafter, I experienced very strong pains in the chest and in the back, followed by trembling and a sensation of pins and needles. I was transfered to the hospital. Cardiology did not note any evidence of arythmia. I think the symptoms may have been a result of the coughing that affected the lungs. I am not a specialist, the doctor is the one establishing a diagnosis… I am better, but although two months have gone by, I continue coughing, and am still devoid of taste and smell.”

Since then, Ziya has remained in prison…His is one of the many cases of ill prisoners maintained under incarceration.

His illness requires frequent hospital visits and hospitalizations. For prisoners, access to the hospital continues to be a supplementary punishment, be it only because of the transport and the long waiting periods inside the “blue ring”, a vehicle writer Aslı Erdoğan, also ill, spoke about in an interview done just before her liberation.

“The most difficult part of prison is the medical help. Infirmary visits are once a week. They are a horror. Outside security from gendarmerie escort you there. They load you aboard this horrible vehicle, the ‘ring’. The ‘ring’ is something that even the twenty prisoners who are used to everything cannot stand. I’ve never seen anything as inhuman as this vehicle. They sit six handcuffed women, side by side, is a space no larger than a coffin. The door slams shut on you. The window is hardly bigger than the palm of a hand. In summer, it’s extremely hot, in winter it’s cold, and there’s no air. You are jostled so much that people vomit. They take you to the hospital like this. They bring the women inside, one by one, with the gendarmes and padlocks. The others wait in the narrow coffin. Three hours, sometimes four. Those who vomit, those who faint… People turn white. At the same time, you want at once to see a doctor, you’ve waited months for this transfer and yet you tell yourself : ‘How will I be able to stand the ‘ring’?”

These inhumane conditions lead many prisoners to hesitate in requesting care and auscultations, thus often aggravating their condition. And yet, access to health care is one of the fundamental rights.

As for Ziya, following each visit or hospitalization, upon returning to prison, he is kept for 14 days in  quarantine in an isolation cell which, for him and other ill detainees, constitutes a true torture.

Last June 17, Ali Kenanoğlu, a deputy of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), intervening in the Turkish Parliament on the topic of ill prisoners called specifically for the liberation of Ziya Ataman.

Journalism is not a crime!

In solidarity with Ziya, Kedistan will soon provide more detailed information. In the meantime, you can support him through your cards and letters. Recently, Ziya wrote: “For our thoughts to remain free, we need your shoulders. In harsh times like these, only solidarity can bring us light. We Wait. We can overcome everything by standing shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow.” 

Ziya Ataman
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı
Ceza İnfaz Kurumu, A-18

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about Ziya Ataman by following this link.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Source: Kedistan.net