Expression Interrupted

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.

Journalist Abdurrahman Gök appears in court on "terror" charges

Journalist Abdurrahman Gök appears in court on

Best known for his photographs of Kemal Kurkut’s murder during 2017’s Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır, Gök is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda”


Journalist Abdurrahman Gök was arrested in Diyarbakır on 9 October 2018 as part of a sweeping operation across eight provinces, in which more than 100 people were taken into custody on alleged ties to PKK/KCK. After remaining in custody for three days, Gök was released under judicial control measures. Two years later, he was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” in an indictment where his phone calls with his sources, his social media posts and his reports were held as evidence against him. The first hearing of Gök’s trial took place on 23 February 2021 at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.


P24 monitored the hearing. Some of the journalists who wanted to cover the trial were not allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19 measures. Heightened security measures were taken both inside and outside the courtroom where the hearing took place.


Addressing the court for his defense statement, Gök said the accusations against him were based entirely on his journalistic activities and all the photographs held as evidence against him in the case file were news photos that he had taken. Gök demanded his acquittal.


Gök’s lawyer Resul Tamur then addressed the court. Asserting that his client is a journalist and that the case file proved this fact, Tamur asked the court to hear the secret witness whose testimony against Gök is held among grounds for the accusations in the case file. Tamur also asked the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on his client.


Issuing an interim ruling, the court lifted the international travel ban imposed on Gök. Ruling to hear the secret witness “Sabır” in a private session to be held in between public hearings, the court adjourned the trial until 3 June 2021.


Speaking to Expression Interrupted following the hearing, Gök said facing a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years for his news coverage and his phone calls with his sources, media outlets he has worked for and with fellow journalists was unbelievable.


“Strangely, the prosecution admits in the indictment that I am indeed a journalist, but then they presume that I do journalism as a member of an [illegal] organization,” Gök said.


Pressure began following Kemal Kurkut photos


Gök is probably best known as the Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter who photographed the moment when 23-year-old university student Kemal Kurkut was shot dead by two police officers as he was trying to join the 2017 Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır.


A speech Gök made as a guest during a Kurdish Journalists Day event, where he talked about his photos of Kurkut’s murder, is also mentioned in the indictment with the prosecution referring to the event as “the so-called Kurdish Journalists Day.”


As to the secret witness “sabır” (patience), Gök said the testimony was taken way before his arrest in 2018, when there was not even an investigation against him. Gök added that his phone calls began to be tapped even before the secret witness testimony.


“The pressure I faced visibly increased following the Kemal Kurkut incident in 2017. Due to the investigations against me that followed, the public is of the opinion that I am being punished for my photos of Kemal Kurkut, which I believe might be true,” Gök said, adding: “I have been a journalist for 17 years now. Up until 2017, I never faced any investigations. But the fact that from that point onwards I was arrested three times, my house was raided by police twice and three criminal investigations were launched against me makes it impossible to think otherwise. I hope the court is convinced by now that I am a journalist. I’m confident that even by just looking at the allegations in the indictment the court will understand that I am only a journalist. I studied journalism, I have been a journalist for 17 years. At times I performed my job under difficult conditions, even amid clashes. I risked getting shot or being arrested, but these never stopped me from doing my job.”


Commenting on the allegations against Gök, lawyer Resul Tamur said the accusations were based on his client’s journalistic work and that newspapers and news portals where Gök’s work has been published were held as evidence in the file. “Even for a speech by Gök, made on 22 April Kurdish Journalists Day, to be held by the prosecutor as a criminal act proves the fact that this case is part of the systematic attack on Kurdish journalists rather than an actual criminal investigation,” Tamur said.