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18.08.2017

Barcelona: support builds for Swedish-Turkish writer facing extradition

by Jane Whyatt and Jessica Jacques

The clock is ticking for journalist Hamza Yalçin. On 11th September he is due to be extradited from Spain to Turkey, charged with “supporting terrorism and insulting President Erdogan.“ But with each passing day, international support for him is growing - despite the fact that Barcelona is on high alert following the deadly attack on the Ramblas.

Gunnar Ardelius Gunnar Ardelius, President of the Swedish Writers Union (Photo: Cato Lein)

On 11th September he is due to be extradited from Spain to Turkey, charged with “supporting terrorism and insulting President Erdogan.“ But with each passing day, international support for him is growing - despite the fact that Barcelona is on high alert following the deadly attack on the Rambla.

Yalçin is held in jail 30 kilometers from Barcelona, where he was arrested as he tried to return home to Sweden with his wife Seda after their holiday. His trade union, the Stockholm-based Swedish Writers Union, is paying for her to return to Spain to visit him.

SWU President Gunnar Ardelius (pictured) told ECPMF: “We wanted to talk to her before planning any action. We are working with the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Swedish PEN, Amnesty International and the media freedom community to try to prevent this extradition.“ In 2016 when the mass arrests of journalists began in Turkey following the attempted military coup, those Swedish organisations demonstrated at the Turkish embassy in Stockholm. But Ardelius says now the focus has shifted:

“We should meet Interpol in Paris and press the European Parliament in Brussels to act. Turkey is exploiting Interpol.“ ECPMF has offered legal assistance and its Spanish member organisation the Plateforma Defence of Freedom of Expression (Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información) the Swedish Foreign Office is paying the legal fees and offering consular services.

“The problem is much bigger than just Hamza. They are exploiting the openness of the EU to silence journalists. It’s horrible,“ 

Hamza Yalçin’s lawyer David Aranda Checa gives ECPMF regular updates on the case. He describes his client as stoical and optimistic. Yet since the journalist is denied access to the Internet and held in a cell on his own, he comments:

“Hamza Yalcin is an intellectual whose life is to read and write. Prison is reducing his ability to do this.“

Checa confirmed that the Spanish authorities had responded to an Interpol Red Notice  (the highest level of threat) issued by Turkey in respect of Hamza Yalçin. This meant that the Spanish police and courts were obliged to react.

Earlier in his career the journalist had been jailed in Turkey and it was on his release in 1984 that he started a new life in Sweden, where he has lived for 33 years in the small town of Halmstad 300 kilometers away from the capital city.





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