Hamza Yalçin – free, but not yet safe

by Jane Whyatt

Europe’s media freedom community is celebrating the release from jail of Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçin. The fifty-nine year old Swedish-Turkish citizen has been held in the Brians prison near Barcelona since he was arrested on August 3rd at the airport.


Hamza Yalcin Hamza Yalçin was in Spanish jail since August 3rd. (Picture: Odak)

But although he is allowed to leave his prison cell, he is still not free. Yalçin must regularly report to the Spanish police. His passport is withdrawn and he is not allowed to travel back to the small town in Sweden that has been his home since 1984. The threat of extradition to Turkey still hangs over him. Yalçin’s name is on the Interpol Red Notice list of people wanted by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “supporting terrorism“.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom has campaigned with the PDLI for this moment and welcomes the release. Managing Director Dr Lutz Kinkel comments:

This is a step forward, and we are very pleased for Hamza Yalçin. But it is not over yet. We hope the Spanish courts will recognise that Interpol’s extradition process must not be abused by governments who are just trying to silence or punish their critics.“

Yalçin’s arrest and two-month detention sparked indignation from journalists’ unions and free speech campaigners. The European Federation of Journalists was active, with its local member on the spot, the SPC (Catalonia Journalists Association). Catalonia’s branch of the international writers’ campaign PEN was also active in calling for his release. Despite the tense atmosphere in the region, where an independence referendum is due to be held on October 1st, Catalonia’s journalists and writers kept up the protests against the Spanish authorities.

Meanwhile the Swedish Writers Union activated its supporters and paid for Hamza’s wife to visit him in prison. And Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström, with four other Liberal and Green Members, sent hard-hitting questions to the European Commission about the case, and that of Doğan Arkhanlì, a German national who is also not allowed to leave Spain becasue he is wanted by Turkey. They demanded to know

What measures is the Commission going to take to ensure that EU citizens of Turkish/Kurdish origin, who disagree with Erdoğan, can travel to Spain and other Member States without fear of being arrested?

What will the Commission do to liberate Mr. Yalçın and ensure he can make full use of his freedom of speech and move freely around the EU as it is his right according to the EU?

So far the MEPs have not received a response to their written questions. But perhaps the fact that Hamza Yalçin and Doğan Arkhanlì Are now no longer behind bars is a sort of answer, and diplomatic pressure might be buiding up behind the scenes.