Well, I suppose it can’t all be good news on a Thursday. While largely ignored in the mainstream media, a Turkish / Swedish journalist has been sitting in jail in Spain for the past week and it’s not because he broke any Spanish laws. Hamza Yalcin, a journalist working out of Sweden, was detained in Spain and placed under arrest on the orders of Turkey, who demanded that he be held and extradited for “supporting terrorism.” (Which is the charge that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan always summons up when he wants to imprison a political opponent.) The real mystery here is why Spain went along with it. (BBC)
Hamza Yalcin was arrested at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on 3 August on an international arrest warrant requested by Turkey.
Sweden’s foreign ministry says it has ensured he has a lawyer and is trying to arrange a prison visit. His detention comes as Turkey faces criticism for its treatment of journalists after the 2016 failed coup.
In one of the most high-profile cases, 17 journalists from the leading Cumhuriyet daily are being tried on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation.
The Swedish foreign ministry said it was trying to clarify the charges against Mr Yalcin but Reporters without Borders (RSF), which campaigns for journalistic freedom, says Turkey accuses him of terrorism.
This story actually broke one week ago and was picked up in the foreign press, but there were hopes at the time that it might be cleared up in short order. After all, since when is Spain in the business of suppressing journalists?
Yalcin clearly has some history with Erdogan and the rest of the ruling party in Turkey. He’s Turkish by birth, but has been living in exile in Sweden for years. He publishes an online news service there called ODAK. (Sorry, there doesn’t seem to be an English language version to send you to.) It will come as no surprise at all to learn that Yalcin is regularly critical of the Erdogan regime and the current crackdown on journalists, police, professors and anyone else who dares to criticize the Tyrant of Turkey. For being such a notable thorn in Erdogan’s side, Yalcin has been a target of his wrath for some time now.
But that shouldn’t have been a problem as long as Yalcin stayed away from Turkey, Russia, Iran or any other authoritarian states friendly to Ankara. It’s difficult to imagine Spain stepping in to serve a warrant on such obviously flimsy, politicized charges just to satisfy Erdogan’s whims.
So what do we do about it? It would be nice to think that the United States could execute a bit of diplomacy here and work out a deal where Yalcin is released, but we haven’t even been able to get Pastor Andrew Brunson out of Erdogan’s prisons. (And he’s an American.) Unless someone can convince Spain that they’re batting for the wrong team on this one Yalcin may be on his way to Turkey. And once there, there’s a very good chance that we’ll never hear from him again.