Journalist Akman: We were beaten and kicked around the floor

Kurdish journalist Nuri Akman, who successfully defended himself against deportation to Turkey together with three political activists in Bucharest airport on Wednesday, has made serious allegations against the Romanian authorities. After successfully resisting deportation to Turkey in Bucharest, he was eventually released.

The 25-year-old told ANF that the attempted deportation was made at the request of the Turkish embassy in Bucharest. Akman and Kurdish activists Lokman Coşkun, Serbest Derin and Emrullah Özel were released on Saturday. They are currently staying in a private apartment in Romania.

Nuri Akman has been sentenced to several long prison terms in Turkey. In a trial about his reporting from Kobanê, he was sentenced to six years imprisonment as an alleged member of a terrorist organization. Due to this political persecution, the correspondent of the Kurdish news agency DIHA (Dicle Haber Ajansı), which was banned by the Turkish government by emergency decree, had to leave Turkey in January 2019 and fled to Greece, where he applied for asylum.

Since his asylum procedure was not processed in Greece, Akman and a group of other Kurdish refugees from Turkey set off via Macedonia and Serbia to Romania. On 13 November, at the urging of the Turkish ambassador, police raids took place in two hotels in Timișoara, where Akman’s group and other Turkish nationals were staying.

About fifty people were arrested in one of the hotels and well over sixty in the other. With the exception of the group of journalists and other twenty people who were unable to provide any proof of identity and who are being held in a refugee assembly camp in Arad, all the others were deported from Bucharest to Turkey – despite their ongoing asylum application. The camp in Arad is an internment camp for “foreigners”. People whose asylum applications have been rejected, who are obliged to leave the country or who have violated the requirements of the Dublin regulations are accommodated there and they are not allowed to leave the camp.

“The entire procedure was overshadowed by violence,” said journalist Akman. After the hotel raids, those affected were handcuffed on their backs and had to wait in front of the building for several hours before being taken to a detention center. They were only picked up for questioning about 24 hours later.

“In the presidium, a translator told us that our plane tickets were ready and that we would be deported to Turkey. The officers urged us to sign forms. Presumably they were declarations of consent, but we don’t know 100 percent because they were Romanian documents. We refused to sign and asked for English papers. We were then taken outside again, where we had to stay out in the cold for a longer period of time.”

Demands for legal representation or the asylum applications of those affected were not even taken into account. When asked about how many people were deported, Nuri Akman says that between 13 and 18 November, at least 84 people were put in groups on a plane to Turkey.

“Probably the same would have happened to Lokman, Emrullah, Serbest and me as well, had it not been for such a huge outcry on social media.” On Wednesday, a total of 38 people were transferred to the airport. Because the four of us refused to be deported and insisted on our application for asylum, we were beaten, kicked and dragged across the floor. That was torture. It wasn’t until two days later, on Friday, that the Romanian authorities allowed us to apply for asylum,” adds Akman.