Turkish Cypriot journalist prosecuted over opinion piece

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A prominent journalist is being prosecuted in the breakaway north for criticising Ankara’s meddling in the election for the Turkish Cypriot leader held in 2020.

Turkish Cypriot media workers union Basin-Sen boss Ali Kishmir was informed by authorities that a case had been brought against him over an op-ed he had written in October 2020, titled “White House”.

Kishmir faces a ten-year prison term on charges of insulting the security forces in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, Kishmir said it is the first time a journalist is being prosecuted on such charges.

He claims the Turkish Embassy in the north and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar are behind the prosecution.

He argues that critics of Turkey’s intervention in the north are being targeted.

Turkey heavily backed Tartar in the 2020 election and made no secret of it.

They also agreed to re-open fenced-off Varosha on the eve of Tartar’s election victory.

Ali Kishmir is a known critic of Ankara’s interference in the affairs of the Turkish Cypriot community and a fierce proponent of Cyprus reunification.

“They want to oppress us; they want our submission,” he told CNA.

The trial starts next week, with the prosecution demanding that Kishmir be put on a stop list and bail set.

The Turkish Cypriot bar association is defending Kishmir, taking on the case pro bono.

Bar association chief Hasan Esendagli said: “This is a practice of oppressive regimes.

“Going after people with criminal cases because of their ideas, words and writings. We have no other choice but to resist them.”

Many prominent critics of Ankara’s interventions are denied entry to Turkey.

A list of 42 prominent Turkish Cypriot activists and politicians, including former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci was leaked last year.

Kishmir was barred from entering Turkey, as authorities cited security reasons, claiming the journalist a threat to the country.

Meanwhile, the Union of Cyprus Journalists (UCJ) has joined the European Journalist Association and the International Federation of Journalists to extend their support to Kishmir.

UCJ condemned Kishmir’s prosecution over the op-ed and will join Turkish Cypriot journalists at a demonstration outside the court in the north on Monday.