In a seemingly absurd miscarriage of justice, Adriana Espinosa, from Sevilla, Spain, has found herself caught up in Turkey’s fight against ‘terrorism.’
Last year Espinosa set off for Turkey on an Erasmus student fellowship. She is a 24-year-old journalism student at the University of Sevilla whose desire is to become an international journalist. She arrived in Gaziantep on 15 September 2008. Gaziantep (Dîlok in Kurdish) is SE Anatolia’s largest city with a population of almost 1.5 million, of which it is estimated that 15% are Kurdish.
Upon arrival Espinosa moved into a flat with two Kurdish students named Darya and Senay. Through these two students she learned a bit about the history of the Kurds and decided at some point thereafter to take on a project for her home institution about Turkish society and press freedoms in the country.
On 19 October, just one month after her arrival in country, Darya invited her to a pro-Kurdish demonstration in the city. Espinosa says she saw the invitation as an opportunity to learn more about the Kurds and, perhaps thinking of her career, to make contacts with other journalists. She also thought it would give her the chance to observe from the perspective of a journalist, without active participation.
The demonstration never took place, but still some 100 people gathered in front of the DTP Headquarters in anticipation of the event. Espinosa and her flatmate left the gathering after learning that the demonstration was not going to take place because there was no permission from the authorities to hold such a demonstration. What she did not know was that Turkish police were filming the event and taking photos of those present. This is quite normal in Kurdish areas and police harassment of Kurds is routine.
For the next two weeks nothing happened. She continued gathering information for her project, storing documents on her laptop about the Kurds. During that time Espinosa also took a short trip to Syria with other Erasmus students. Upon her return on 29 October she found her flat turned upside-down. Cupboards were open, her laptop was gone, and the memory card from her camera had been taken. She learned that her two Kurdish flatmates had been detained that morning by the police and immediately decided to seek refuge with another Spaniard in Gaziantep also there with Erasmus.
On 19 November 2008 she was called into the Dean’s office of the University of Gaziantep. When she arrived at the university
she was stopped by the police who said they had a few questions for her. She was taken by car to an office near the prison where they interrogated her for an hour about her participation in the demonstration, her thoughts on the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), and her relationship with Darya. The prosecutor in the office told her they had sufficient evidence to charge her with spreading terrorist propaganda. The PKK is categorised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the EU. In its battle against the Kurds, Turkey uses ‘association with the PKK’ to bring terrorism charges against the Kurds and their allies.
The police released Espinosa, warning her of the dangers of the Kurds and also insisting she not have any more contact with Darya.
Espinosa went back to Spain in January for exams and one day prior to her return to Turkey received an e-mail from a friend there, worried about Espinosa’s safety, warning her not to return. She learned not until mid-February 2009 that charges would be brought against her and that the same prosecutor who interrogated her in November had filed the charges at the High Court in Adana.
Espinosa will not return to Turkey for the trial. Rather she will fight to resolve her legal imbroglio from Spain, hoping one day to be able to return to Turkey. For now she has retained the services of Turkish counsel to help her battle the charges of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.’ This falls under Article 7/2 of Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law n° 3713 and carries up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of 50m euros. The trial is set to begin on 01 July.
This is clearly a case that has no merit whatsoever. Turkey is harassing Espinosa solely for her interest in learning the truth about the Kurds.
Ala, Zinar. Una estudiante Sevillana será juzgada por “apoyar” el PKK, Zinar Ala Blog, 19 June 2009.
Martínez, Iram. Turquía enjuiciará a una estudiante erasmus sevillana, El Plural, 20 June 2009.
Mourenza, Andrés. Turquía juzga a una Erasmus española por ir a una marcha. El Periódico de Aragón, 20 June 2009
Muñoz, Carlota. ‘No voy a ir a Turquía aunque tengo la conciencia muy tranquila’. El Correo de Andalucía, 19 June 2009.
Una estudiante Erasmus será juzgada por dirigir protestas pro kurdas, Diario de Sevilla, 20 June 2009.