Repression without borders: Turks order arrest of exiled writer on holiday in Spain

by Jane Whyatt

Journalist Hamza Yalçin, who has dual Turkish and Swedish nationality, is behind bars in Spain after being arrested at an airport in Barcelona. The Turkish government is seeking to extradite Yalçin, and put his name on the Interpol list of wanted people. As he presented his passport at the airport, ready to board a flight to London, the authorities handed him over to the police. He was detained and later appeared before the national court (Audienca Nacional).

Hamza Yalçin Hamza Yalçin, editor of "Odak Dergisi" (picture: Odak Dergisi)

Fifty-nine year old Yalçin has lived in Sweden for 33 years and was on holiday in Spain. He is associated with the socialist news website "Odak ", which is critical of the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The online news site is calling for Yalcin's release, and asks their readers to show solidarity with him.

"We did not expect him to be arrested in such way because he has been living in Sweden for more than 30 years and he has a Swedish passport," an "Odak" spokesperson said to the ECPMF. "Besides that, we are surprised that the Spanish government treats him badly and that there is even a risk of him being send back to Turkey where Erdoğan tries to establish his dictatorship".

According to the Spanish national newspaper "El Païs", one of the reasons for the arrest was that Hamza Yalçin had “insulted“ Turkey’s President Erdoğan in an article in "Focus" magazine

"Very serious"

ECPMF’s member organisation in Spain, the Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information (PDLI) has issued a statement in support of Hamza Yalçin (in Spanish). It includes: “The Platform considers it very serious that Spain has arrested and imprisoned the Swedish-Turkish writer and journalist Hamza Yalçin following an international arrest warrant issued by Turkey for 'insulting the President of Turkey in a article published in a magazine,' as reported by the Efe agency, and urges the Spanish government not to comply with the request for extradition.“

Yalçin also has the support of the Swedish branch of Reporters Without Borders and PEN International.

Since the alleged coup attempt of July 2016 hundreds of Turkish journalists and writers have been imprisoned in Turkey. The European Federation of Journalists is monitoring the arrests and reports that 164 journalists are currently behind bars. 

Another Swedish national has been detained in Turkey along with a German colleague. Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner were running a training course for Amnesty International when they were detained.

"The PDLI has urged the Spanish government not to comply with the extradition request. We consider it very disturbing that critical journalists can be detained outside Turkey and deported to this country, taking into account the situation of repression of freedoms and the massive purge that has been going on since last year.

The PDLI has informed the Spanish Interior Minister about the situation that has resulted in the detention of more than 150 journalists as well as the enforced closure of almost 170 media outlets. In addition, the PDLI reminded the Spanish government that the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, does not give credibility to the accusations of terrorism and he warned that they are being used as a mechanism to repress legitimate criticisms of Erdoğan's policies in a recent report.

For the PDLI, these facts show that Turkey systematically violates human rights and this is incompatible with democracy, and therefore does not allow international security agreements to be applied as if nothing happened. Therefore, the PDLI has called on the Spanish government not to deport the Swedish-Turkish journalist and to urgently clarify his legal situation". (Yolanda Quintana/ General Secretary PDLI)