Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.
Voice of America Kurdish service reporter Arif Aslan was taken into custody along with now-defunct Dicle News Agency reporter Selman Keleş on 20 March 2017 while they were taking pictures of the barriers placed in front of the Van City Hall following its takeover by state-appointed trustees. Aslan and Keleş were initially fined TL 250 for “breaching the Misdemeanor Law.” They were subsequently detained.
After spending 11 days in police custody, on 31 March 2017, Aslan and Keleş were jailed pending trial by a criminal judgeship of peace on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
The indictment against Aslan and Keleş was issued on 9 October 2017. In it, the journalists were charged with "membership in a terrorist organization" under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for allegedly shooting photos of the municipal building and its vicinity "for reconnaissance for the PKK." The indictment was accepted by the Van 5th High Criminal Court.
Aslan and Keleş were released pending trial by the Van 5th High Criminal Court at their first hearing, held on 21 November 2017, after spending eight months in pre-trial detention. The prosecutor objected to their release. Based on the prosecutor's objection, Keleş was arrested in Diyarbakır on 12 December 2017 and was released pending trial the next day. He eventually left Turkey for Switzerland, where he has been granted asylum. Aslan was arrested in Van on 31 December 2017 and was released under judicial control measures after giving his statement at the courthouse.
During the sixth hearing of the trial, held on 5 September 2019, Aslan's lawyer Cahit Durmaz asked the court to separate the file against Keleş, who is unable to attend the hearings because he currently lives abroad.
The eighth hearing of Aslan and Keleş's trial was held on 3 September 2020. At the end of the hearing, the court decided to separate the file against Keleş. The court rejected Aslan’s request for his international travel ban to be lifted.
The prosecutor submitted his final opinion during the hearing held on 11 February 2021, requesting that Aslan be sentenced for "membership in a terrorist organization."
The final hearing of Aslan's trial was held on 18 March 2021. Delivering its judgment after hearing the final defense statements by Aslan’s lawyers, the court acquitted the journalist.