Turkey sought extradition of journalist from Germany

Turkey filed a request with Germany to extradite journalist Halit Esendir,  a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government who is alleged to be affiliated with the Gülen movement, a group that Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016, the Nordic Monitor reported on Monday.

It is unclear how Germany responded to the request, initiated in 2017, the news website said, citing Turkish government documents it obtained. Prosecutors are seeking two aggravated life sentences for Esendir, the harshest punishment under Turkish criminal law, and 50 years in prison on nine other charges, it said.

Turkey is among the world’s top jailers of journalists and writers along with China and Saudi Arabia. The authorities have arrested or convicted 174 journalists who were behind bars as of Aug. 12, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database. Another 167 are wanted, and either in exile or remain at large.

Germany has refused to hand over persons wanted by Turkey in similar cases, citing violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Esendir was an editor for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, known for its strong ties to the Gülen movement.

Turkey has been ranked “not free” by Freedom House, an organisation researching democracy and human rights, for six consecutive years. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked the country 154th out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Criminal evidence against Esendir included criticism of Erdoğan’s government on a Turkish television channel, Nordic Monitor said, citing his case file. Turkey has issued six arrest warrants for the 66-year-old on a range of criminal charges, from defamation of the president to accusations of terrorism.

The authorities also applied to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to issue a so-called Red Notice against Esendir, the news website said. Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence.

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