What next for Hamza Yalçin?

Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçin is still in jail in Spain awaiting the Spanish government's decision whether to extradite him to Turkey or not.

Hamza Yalcin Hamza Yalcin, was in Spanish jail since August 3rd. (copyright: Odak Direnis)

By Jessica Jacques

The deadline set for the demand for his extradition has passed. Turkish-Swedish journalist Hamza Yalçin remains in prison in Spain. His fate now rests in the hands of the Spanish government, whose actions are being questioned in the light of human rights concerns over Turkish President Erdoğan’s influence extending beyond Turkey’s borders.

On 30th August the Turkish authorities sent their extradition request to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ahead of the 11th September deadline. The Spanish government now has 40 days to make a decision on Turkey’s extradition demand: they will either authorise the judicial process or Yalçin will be freed. If approved, a trial will take place on the extradition process.

Yalçin was arrested at Barcelona airport on 3rd August, accused of insulting President Erdoğan and having links with the so called terrorist organisation involved in the attempted coup in Turkey last summer. He is one of 170 Turkish journalists who have been jailed for criticising Erdoğan’s regime.

Protest for Yalçin's release

The Catalonia Journalists Association and Catalan PEN presented a manifesto on 4th September calling for Yalçin’s release, adding to numerous calls from journalists’ groups, NGOs, the Barcelona City Council and political parties. The President of PEN Catalonia, Carmen Arenas, called for Spain “not to be an accomplice of Erdoğan’s government,“ reminding her audience that in defending Yalçin they were defending the rights of all European citizens to freedom of expression.

Yalçin’s partner, who was present at the protest, said, “Having written an article you can end up in prison – here you can see how badly the country works.“

Yalçin’s lawyer, David Aranda Checa, speaking out against the questionable legality of Yalçin’s extradition, told the ECPMF: “The procedure goes beyond all human and legal rules: it does not respect international human rights law nor is it protected by our legislation, because it is a lawsuit for political extradition.'” He finds it worrying that the Spanish authorities have given some legitimisation to Turkey’s demands, as opposed to immediately exposing Turkey’s actions and alleged abuse of Interpol as part of Erdoğan’s ideological purge of his critics. 

'I do not lose hope, but I am distressed'

Yalçin’s partner had already expressed her frustrations that diplomatic intervention from Sweden, where Yalçin has dual citizenship, has been weak and produced no positive outcome. She suggests there are economic ties between Turkey and Sweden, and emphasises how important it is for Yalçin to be set free: “I do not lose hope, but I am distressed. If he is extradited he will spend the rest of his life in prison. {He has} been tortured twice and has health problems because of this ill-treatment. Since the Turkish system does not work democratically, anything can happen to him.”

Protests have also been held in Stockholm on 5th September, including representatives of the Swedish Writers Union, Swedish PEN and Reporters Without Borders, who have called on Interpol to review Turkey’s extradition requests in the context of human rights repressions.

Yalçin’s fate now rests in the hands of the Spanish government, as questions continue to be asked about the country’s lack of scrutiny regarding Turkey’s requests.