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Investigative journalist Tunca Ogreten has spent over 300 days in pre-trial detention in Turkey for an article exposing links between the country’s Energy Ministry and a company transporting Northern Iraqi oil from the Kurdish zone through Turkey

We present the report that landed him in prison: an expose of how controversial energy deals in Turkey are run through a close family member of President Erdogan

After spending almost a year in pre-trial detention, Tunca Ogreten faces his first trial date this month


In 2016, investigative journalist Tunca Öğreten published an article that documents the involvement of Turkish Energy Minister (and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law) Berat Albayrak in the shipping of Kurdish oil through Turkey, and onward to the world’s energy markets.

His investigation was based on company records and Albayrak’s emails, leaked by Marxist hacker collective, RedHack. Öğreten was among a handful of journalists with whom RedHack shared the emails.

When the article was published, Albayrak’s lawyers asked the Turkish courts to censor the content. Many other articles which cited the emails, revealing corruption and malpractice in government, suffered a similar treatment.

On 25 December, police officers conducted a dawn raid on Öğreten’s house, along with five other journalists who reported the leak: Ömer Çelik and Metin Yoksu (from DİHA News Agency — shut down by the government), Mahir Kanaat (from daily BirGün), Eray Sargın (chief editor of news website Yolculuk) and Derya Okatan (editor at ETHA News Agency).

After spending 24 days in detention without facing trial, Öğreten, Çelik and Kanaat were jailed on ‘terrorism’ charges. The others were released on bail, pending trial.

Once the three journalists had spent seven months in pretrial detention, the prosecutor submitted an indictment, accusing the journalists of membership of a terrorist organisation, and making propaganda for a terrorist organisation. Tunca Öğreten was accused of breaching information systems for reviewing the emails on his computer.

The primary evidence in the eight-page indictment is a Twitter message group where a RedHack affiliated account allegedly shared access to the emails with journalists. For the prosecutor, the only ‘proof’ regarding journalists’ membership to a terrorist organisation is who the journalists ‘follow’ on Twitter. The only evidence for the accusation of propaganda for a terrorist organisation are the journalists’ 19 tweets, 13 of which are news titles or updates on ongoing events.

Based on this indictment, Tunca Öğreten and other journalists are due to have their first hearing on 24 October. They have stayed over 300 days in pretrial detention.

Currently there are 170 journalists in Turkish jails, many accused of “terrorism” for the news articles they published, or opinions they shared on Twitter.

One year on, we are publishing the English translation of Tunca Öğreten’s article about Turkish Energy Minister Albayrak’s involvement in the Kurdish oil trade.

For more about the current situation on this issue, you can read our article 'Turkey Energy Deals in Iraqi Kurdistan helped Open door to Kurdish Independence'



RedHack leak: Albayrak had the final say on the Kurdish oil shipping company


- Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak had the final say on Powertrans, the company that transports oil produced by the Kurdish Regional Government, according to the RedHack email cache

- Albayrak gave approval to everything in Powertrans - from employment of key personnel to daily food expenses

By Tunca Öğreten

Originally published in Diken on 30 September 2016

President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak ‘revealed’ as a shareholder in Powertrans


In his book ‘Potus and Beyefendi’, Turkish newspaper Hürriyet’s Washington DC correspondent Tolga Tanış revealed that a company named Powertrans was authorised in 2011 to transport oil produced by the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq.

According to the documents published, President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was one of the shareholders of Powertrans.

Based on Tanış’s book, Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet published an article on 12 March 2015, entitled “Oil favours to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, the new Energy Minister”.


‘Erdoğan issued privileged order for oil transport’

The news article, later censored, detailed the following:

“On the documents revealed, Turkey’s rapprochement with the Kurdish Regional Government has financial significance for a few ‘selected companies’.

“Erdoğan’s cabinet, at their first meeting after the 2011 general election [which Erdogan’s party, the AKP, won in a landslide], issued a privileged order for the transport of oil from the region.

“The company which benefited the most was Powertrans, whose owners were not public. The documents show that the company belonged to Çalık Group. All the business decisions about the foreign owners of Powertrans, Grand Fortune Ventures and Lucky Ventures, were signed by Sovereign Trust Advisors, but they were taken by Çalık Holding executives when Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak was the [Çalık] CEO.”


“Oil favours to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, the new Energy Minister” Cumhuriyet article from 2015 (later censored)
After the publication, Albayrak’s lawyers claimed he had no links to the company and filed a law suit against Cumhuriyet’s chief editor Can Dündar.


‘It is not possible for our government to give privileges’

When Powertrans was founded, Berat Albayrak did not hold a ministerial position. But after he was appointed Energy Ministry, he released a statement on the Ministry’s website.

“Companies that applied for oil trade (petroleum, related products, natural gas or electricity) based on the contract laid out by the Northern Iraq Regional Government had received licences according to regulations of the government bodies.

"The application by PowerTrans was evaluated and approved by the Ministry of Customs and Trade according to international trade and Turkish regulations, on the condition that the company meets all the criteria completely. As a state governed by the rule of law, it is not possible for our government to give privileges to any person, company or institution illegally or immorally.”


‘Even the menu is approved by Albayrak’
However, according to the emails obtained and leaked by the RedHack, Albayrak is directly involved in Powertrans.

In one of the correspondences, an employee named B.Y. [name redacted by reporter] asks Albayrak’s approval for the personnel employed and the food the workers receive.

In the email dated 20 June 2013, B.Y. asks “Powertrans wants the travel allowances to be reconsidered... and the food allowances to be increased by 5 Turkish Lira in parallel with other companies in the proximity [of ours]. Submitted for your approval.”

In another email leaked by RedHack, date unknown, B.Y. asks: “Dear Mr. Albayrak, the personnel you approved are appointed as follows: E.Y. as senior advisor to trade department with 1,500 Turkish Lira salary, M.E. as senior advisor to logistics department with 1,500  Turkish Lira salary…”


‘If Barzani leaves, the business may suffer’

The email dump also contains the correspondence between Albayrak and D.A.İ. [name redacted by the reporter] ‘Iraq Regional Manager’ of Powertrans. In one email, D.A.İ. says: “After the Energy Ministry allowed gas and diesel oil for private companies, the ministry’s pressure on us is decreased. The final destination for the most part of the oil we transport is the Zaho region.”

D.A.İ. also warns Albayrak that if Barzani steps down from his presidency, their business may suffer.

He says: “Politically speaking, President Masoud Barzani’s term will soon be over. Previously, his term was extended by the decision of the Parliament. The new president was expected to be from the Iran-ally Goran (Change) Party, but after the meeting with Goran leaders with Iranian officials in Sulaymaniyah, they made a statement to support the extension of Masoud Barzani’s presidency.

“According to the intel from local sources, Masoud Barzani’s leave from office would have a huge impact. It is believed that the trade with Turkey would have decreased and the oil trade would have shifted to Iran.”



30 year-old Uzbekistan journalist Ali Feruz is on the verge of deportation from Russia, and risks torture in the Central Asian country

The journalist is homosexual - a crime in Uzbekistan - and has previously been beaten up by the Uzbek authorities

UPDATE: Following a decison of an appeal court in Moscow on Tuesday 8 August, the deportation of Ali has been suspended until a final decision by the European Court of Human Rights. Ali will be kept inside a deportation center in Russia until then

Ali Feruz has been fighting for the right to stay in Russia for six years (copyright: Vlad Dokshin, Novaya Gazeta)


A Russian journalist from newspaper Novaya Gazeta is on the verge of deportation to Uzbekistan, where journalists and their families risk imprisonment and disappearance.

On 1 August, a Russian court ordered the compulsory deportation of 30 year-old Ali Feruz, who was previously tortured by the powerful Uzbek security services, the SNB.

His colleagues believe the deportation could put his life in danger because he is a journalist, a profession brutally suppressed in the Central Asian country.

Feruz is openly gay, and in Uzbekistan sex between men is illegal and can be penalised with up to three years in prison.

He is registered as an Uzbek citizen, but has made a life for himself in Moscow for the last six years.

His deportation is part of a ‘fast-track’ deportation measure, although the legal means allowing his appeal have not yet been exhausted.

Vladimir Putin himself has been solicited by Novaya Gazeta editor in chief Dmitry Muratov to prevent the deportation of Feruz.


Media Freedom “non-existent”

An independent republic since breaking free from the USSR in 1991, Uzbekistan is southeast Asia’s most populous state - of 32 million people.

From 1991 until 2016, it was run by President Islam Karimov, and was known an authoritarian state where torture and arbitrary detention were widespread, and the media was under constant attack.

If journalists wrote critical investigations into the leaders and their entourage, they risked torture and imprisonment. If these journalists were outside the country, their families in Uzbekistan also faced reprisals.

Karimov even imprisoned his own nephew Jamshid, an investigative journalist, in a psychiatric facility, where he remained from 2006 until this year.

Since Karimov’s death, the new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has made signals towards a thaw in media freedom and human rights.

But Mirziyoyev comes from the same elite as his predecessor and the power structures remain in place in a secretive country where the mighty security service, the SNB, is a powerful player within the state.


Journalist's wife "threatened with rape"

Ali Feruz is the pen name of Khudoberdi Nurmatov, who has written on hate crimes, LGBT and disability rights, and the rights of refugees from Central Asia.

Born in Kokand in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1987, Feruz’s mother is Russian and he graduated in Russia, only later acquiring Uzbek citizenship in 2004. In 2008, he married a Kyrgyz citizen, Dilafruz Shamshiddinova, and moved to Uzbekistan, where he fathered two children.

That year he was kidnapped by the security services, the SNB, who interrogated Feruz and forced him to hand over information about the political views of his friends who practised Islam.

The SNB also asked Feruz to work for them. After refusing to cooperate, the journalist was beaten by members of the SNB, who threatened to rape his wife and imprison him on false information.

He then fled to Kyrgyzstan, and then to Kazakhstan, before moving to Russia in 2011.

In 2013, he came out as gay, and broke up with his wife.

He has repeatedly been refused asylum by the Russian authorities, and in March 2017, the Russian police detained him for 12 hours on no charges. The police officers grilled him on the reasons for his application for shelter in Russia, and he was threatened with deportation to Uzbekistan.

There are cases where Uzbek asylum seekers - and even those with refugee status - disappear in Moscow and are later found in Uzbek prisons.

The staff at Novaya Gazeta fear that even if Feruz gains provisional asylum status in Russia, he could still be at risk of abduction and kidnap to Uzbekistan.


Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik has been in prison for nearly four months, accused on terrorism charges for tweeting criticisms of the Erdogan-led Government. 

Today he was acquitted of a previous charge - but he took the chance in the courtroom to attack Turkey''s controversial justice system

The video in Turkish is here

Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik attended the last hearing of the OdaTV trial today. 

He has been in jail for four months in another case. This trial should take place in the next ten days. 

Today in Caglayan Courthouse, after a couple of hours of deliberations, the judge asked for the last words of 13 defendants.

Ahmet Sik said:

“If I said what I am really thinking, it would be the subject of another court case. I am referring to the judiciary who wrote my new indictment. This courthouse has become a symbol of the graveyard of justice. The gravediggers are the judges and prosecutors themselves. At the entrance of this courthouse, you can see the statues of Lady Justice. She is holding scales. Supposedly, these scales are the symbol for justice. 

“But it is a fact that the scales don’t weigh anything for those looking for justice in this graveyard. 

“Actually, these are scales for judges and prosecutors; on one side, there is honour and integrity, and on the other side there is lack of honour and improbity. For these judges and prosecutors, the latter always weighs more.”

After Ahmet’s words, the judge asked for a recess. 

On his return, the judge ruled to acquit all 13 defendants in the OdaTV case. 

The case has first started in 2011 when Ahmet and his colleagues were detained for a year, accused of being members of a clandestine terrorist organisation, which was later found out to be fictional.

As Ahmet was leaving the courtroom to be taken back to jail, his supporters were shouting: “Ahmet will be free, he will write again.” Ahmet stopped the military police dragging him outside and turned to the spectators and said:

“This decision should be a lesson for the judges and prosecutors who wrote the [new] indictment against [us]. We will achieve a life where our children’s smiles will be real. This mafia government, this organised evil, will get the ending it deserves. They will face the inevitable.” 

Previously, Ahmet has used his time in the courthouse to launch attacks on the Turkish regime. In February he stated:

"We [the journalists] were tried in courts because we refused to bow down to a government which has normalised totalitarianism. We chased the truth. The biggest legacy we inherited is the idea that saying what the powerful wants told is not journalism. The people who taught us this were or are still being punished with jail or exile. When this was not enough, they were silenced with bombs or bullets. The fight waged by the powerful against journalists in order to censor the truth has been going on since the dawn of journalism in this land.

"But this fight is futile. Because, whoever you are, you cannot fight an idea that has truth at its base. If you think you’re fighting it, you should know that you cannot win. You will lose again and again.”

Turkey currently imprisons almost half of all detained journalists worldwide. At least 134 journalist are currently in jail in Turkey, all of them under anti-state charges. 





Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik has been in prison for two months, accused on terrorism charges for tweeting criticisms of the Erdogan-led Government. Today he made a rare venture back into the public eye - speaking as a defendant in a different trial

This is what he said

Investigative Journalist Ahmet Sik hugs his daughter at his trial today. He remains in custody (Credit: Sinan Karahan - Twitter)
Ahmet Sik 15 February 2017, Istanbul. OdaTv trial

Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik was brought in front of a judge today to defend himself in the OdaTv trial. This is part of an investigation which started in 2011 when he was first detained for a year, accused with membership of a clandestine terrorist organisation, which was later found out to be fictional.

He is currently in jail waiting for the indictment in another case.

On 14 December 2016, the prosecutor wanted Ahmet Sik and other 13 defendants to be acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence.

Sik refused and asked for extra time to defend himself in front of the court for the last time. The judge had postponed the hearing to 15 February 2017.


This is what Sik said in court today:

“Turkey is a strange country and has experienced many absurdities before now. But there has never been an era where universal democratic norms are thrown out and re-defined to serve the benefit of an organised evil which currently encompasses the country.

"George Orwell’s '1984' is frequently used to describe today’s Turkey, but Orwell would turn in his grave today. If you find this an exaggeration, I will give you a couple of examples.

"I’ll start with the most recent events. The [President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-backed leadership] are trying to sell us a one-man dictatorship as though it is democracy.

"The referendum [on 16 April to grant Erdogan more powers over the legislative branch of power] will be held under unequal circumstances, where everyone is sure there will be fraud, and where a person is branded a terrorist if he says he will vote 'no'.

"And the [leadership] present this referendum to us as the 'will of the nation'. They did not hesitate to turn the country into a bloodbath when the July 2015 general election result threatened their power and the oligarchic system they represent. At the end of the [Kurdish] peace process, the whole country turned into a graveyard.

"They want us to believe this is an advanced democracy and that press freedom is in its best ever era, and they say they have freed us from chains. But national and international organisations tell us: 'Turkey is the biggest prison for journalists in the world'.

"In the last ten years, pro-government loyalists liberally used the terms 'coup' and 'plotter' very liberally. Every anti-government movement was a 'coup' and every dissident was a 'plotter'. In fact, the actual military regimes and coups were welcomed by political Islamists in Turkey.

"The Justice and Development Party (the Erdogan-backed AKP Party) is itself the biggest example of this paradox of the illusion of democracy. They represent the mentality of darkness, but their logo is a light-bulb. They turn the country into a republic paved with cement, while destroying the environment and natural resources, and they call it development. And this trial itself shows their understanding of justice.

"Two of my lawyers are not here today. And not just them. My colleagues Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gursel, Guray Oz, Turhan Gunay, Hakan Kara, Musa Kart and Onder Celik aren’t here either. They are in jail.

"When evil prevails, we need truth more than ever. Because when facts are written down, evil ceases to be the last word. Not speaking, not remembering and not allowing ourselves to remember is denying ourselves the truth.

"We [the journalists] were tried in courts because we refused to bow down to a government which has normalised totalitarianism. We chased the truth. The biggest legacy we inherited is the idea that saying what the powerful wants told is not journalism. The people who taught us this were or are still being punished with jail or exile. When this was not enough, they were silenced with bombs or bullets. The fight waged by the powerful against journalists in order to censor the truth has been going on since the dawn of journalism in this land.

"But this fight is futile. Because, whoever you are, you cannot fight an idea that has truth at its base. If you think you’re fighting it, you should know that you cannot win. You will lose again and again.”

The trial lasted eight hours. This was expected to be the last hearing in the case. The judge, however, annouced a further hearing for 12 April 2017.

As Ahmet was leaving the courtroom, he turned to his colleagues watching the trial and shouted:

“We will demolish this blockade.”


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