Turkey issues arrest warrant for Kurdish journalist killed in Cizre

19-year-old Rohat Aktas, an editor at the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat was killed in Cizre

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey’s majority southeastern city Diyarbakir issued an arrest warrant for Rohat Aktas, a 19-year-old journalist and news editor who was killed by security forces in Cizre in February 2016.

An editor of the Kurdish-language daily, Azadiya Welat, which has since been closed down by decree law, the young journalist was shot as he was reporting on the curfew and siege in Cizre. According to reports, Aktas later took refuge in a basement with dozens of others, and burned to death after security forces lit the building on fire. His corpse was only identified after DNA sampling.

The Kurdish ANF News Agency reported that the arrest warrant issued four months after Aktas’ death was because he did not provide a statement in a terror-probe. The 10-page indictment seeks a seven and half year prison sentence and fine for ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’ in 16 issues of the Kurdish daily published between November and December 2015.

Despite Aktas’ death the trial at the Diyarbakir 4th High Criminal Court has been postponed to May, because “he could not be captured,” ANF reported.

PEN International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have called for an investigation into Aktas’ death. However initiatives by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations to investigate the death of hundreds of civilians during the curfews between July 2015 and March 2016 have been blocked by the Turkish government.

Commenting on Rohat Aktas’ death, Salil Tripathi, Writers in Prison Committee Chair at PEN International said: “Rohat Aktaş died while trying to tell the world about the plight of wounded civilians with little or no access to medical care in Cizre. Freedom of expression plays an invaluable role, particularly in times of conflict, to allow us to understand what is happening. We call on the Turkish authorities to conduct a swift, transparent and thorough investigation into the death of Rohat Aktaş and urge the government in Ankara to look for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the conflict in southeast Turkey.”