Last month, a Swedish journalist of Turkish descent, Hamza Yalçin was finally released from detention in a Spanish jail awaiting an extradition decision. Turkey has requested and received an INTERPOL Red Notice based upon an underlying charge of “terrorism” and insulting the Turkish president.
If he had been extradited, Mr. Yalçin would have faced over 22 years in prison for insulting the president of Turkey. The journalist reportedly received asylum from Sweden many years ago based on his previous political activity in Turkey. The facts that Mr. Yalçin is a journalist and that he is an asylee from Turkey both render the Red Notice against him rather curious: INTERPOL has a policy in place that was enacted for the purpose of protecting asylees from further political persecution by the countries from which they fled, and notices against journalists are often requested based on their criticism of the requesting regime.
This is not the first time that Turkey has utilized its access to INTERPOL’s tools to aid in the prosecution of a journalist. Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that Germany has had to modify its policies in dealing with Turkey, and that such abuses against journalists and critics cannot be tolerated.
Yalçin was released late last month, but not because the Red Notice was dropped: he reportedly was released because Spanish law did not allow for the extradition of an asylee.
INTERPOL has an opportunity to highlight its commitment to human rights by subjecting Turkish Red Notice requests to additional scrutiny before issuing them, particularly where the subject is an author or journalist.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.