American journalist deported to the US and speaks about his arrest in Turkey
The 25-year-old American journalist from New Hampshire, Jake Hess, was released by Turkish authorities this week and was deported back to the United States. Hess was recently arrested in Turkey after authorities accused him of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hess and his lawyers deny the charges and claim that he was arrested for his critical writings about the Turkish state policies against the Kurdish population in Turkey and the military campaigns that have adversely affected Kurdish villagers in Iraq. Hess recently sat down and spoke with Democracy Now!, an independent news program in the U.S., about his arrest.
In the interview with Democracy Now!, Hess explained that despite false allegations that he was working for the PKK, Turkish interrogators showed more concern about the articles and writings he was publishing. Hess stated, “[They] asked me why I have written about things like torture, or violence against Kurdish women, or the Turkish army’s use of forest fires as a tool of counter-insurgency. [..] Basically, I was only asked about my writings and [contact with] perfectly legal human rights organizations.”
Hess was taken to the anti-terror section of the police station in Diyarbakir and was held there for 4 days where he was interrogated by a total of about 10 to 15 Turkish officers. He had just recently returned from a trip to the Iraq-Turkish border where the PKK is based. Hess interviewed members of the PKK as a journalist and also visited the villages along the border inside Iraq to document the conditions of Kurdish civilians who have been displaced by the ongoing Turkish military bombardments of the region.
Despite his contact with PKK members during the trip to the border, Hess stated that the interrogators did not ask him about the trip. He said that they were more concerned with his writings and stated to Democracy Now!, “They claimed the things I had written were inaccurate and they accused me of waging a smear campaign against the Turkish Republic and also asserted that my writings had negatively impacted Turkey’s international image.”
Hess has worked in Turkey as a journalist extensively and has continuously published work for Inter Press Service, a global news agency based in Rome. He has also participated in activist work to raise awareness of human rights violations in Turkey. Hess said that interrogators were also concerned with his contact with various legal human rights groups.
In the interview, he stated, “They asked me why I had relations with human rights group both within Turkey and in London, and why I had collected signatures to support the release of Mr Muharrem Erbey, the chairman of the Diyarbakir office of the Human Rights Association [IHD], and other such things.”
The human rights lawyer, Erbey, was arrested in December 2009 and the government has accused him having links with the PKK. Thus far, Turkish prosecutors have included his writings of human rights reports and his entry of political lawsuits on behalf of victims of human rights abuses as evidence against him. Hess explained that even the work that he did with Erbey to raise awareness about the current human rights situation in southeastern Turkey was presented as evidence against Erbey. For reasons such as this one, Hess explained, he will not return to Turkey for some time to avoid endangering his colleagues.
Hess explained that the human rights abuses in Turkey are continuing at a “very disturbing level”. Despite a recent PKK ceasefire, Turkish military operations have continued. Hess asserted that these operations have included the intentional burning of rural areas by the military to prevent Kurdish villagers from resettling the lands they were displaced from since the 1990s. Hess explained that the use of military force as been falsely viewed as a way to solve the Kurdish issue.
Hess blamed his own government for encouraging this policy.
Jake Hess was offered help by US government shortly following his arrest to which he refused. He told Democracy Now!, “It would be hypocritical for the United States to send me support while at the same time encouraging Turkey to use military means to solve this issue [and] supporting Turkey’s policy of annihalating Kurdish political activists through mass arrests and criminalization. Simlarly, it would probably be hypocritical of me to accept their help after spending so much time denouncing their policies in Turkey.”
The entire interview at Democracy Now! can be viewed at http://www.democracynow.org/2010/8/23/exclusive_us_journalist_deported_from_turkey