Canadian woman jailed in Turkey for allegedly insulting president
Friends of a Canadian woman who has reportedly been in jail in Turkey since Friday on charges of insulting the country’s president are campaigning loudly for her release.
Ece Heper, a dual citizen of Turkey and Canada, was arrested and charged last week in the city of Kars in Turkey, according to friends in Toronto and her lawyer in Turkey.
The lawyer told the Canadian Press that Heper had been charged with insulting the president, and that it could be months before her case goes to trial.
Heper had made several Facebook posts criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who over the past two years has filed about 2,000 defamation cases under a law, which had rarely been used until then, that prohibits insulting the president — a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.
“[Erdogan is] just jailing journalists that come out with pure evidence on how Turkey supports ISIS,” she wrote in one post, before questioning Erdogan’s motivation for blaming the US for the Islamic State and going on to call him “America’s biyatch.”
Global Affairs Canada told VICE News on Friday morning that they are aware of a Canadian citizen detained in Turkey and are providing consular assistance, but wouldn’t go into further detail, citing privacy reasons.
“[Erdogan] is going after anyone who’s saying things that aren’t in line with what he wants on social media,” said Birgita Pavic, a friend of Heper’s. “He’s clamping down like a dictator.”
According Pavic, a friend of Heper’s, she’d been back and forth between Canada and Turkey several times over the past year, and went most recently in mid-November to help a man she’d become close with, who was in jail.
The man had been living in exile in Iraq for two years, and was arrested during his attempt to return to Turkey with Heper, after allegedly being caught with a flyer associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a group that’s been deemed a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.
Heper had been living in the city of Mardin, but drove nine hours to Kars, in order to bring her friend’s ex-wife to visit him at the jail, and was arrested at the woman’s home, her friends said.
“We all knew she was being watched because of her connection with this person who was already imprisoned,” said Pavic. “She tried to do what she could from here, but thought she could help more from there, and in that process, got herself arrested.”
“Ece’s got a huge heart and she’s an extremely generous, kind person,” said Pavic, adding that her friend had worked for a dog shelter in Turkey and rescued six dogs that she brought over to Canada. She’d been living with the dogs in Norwood, Ont.
Pavic has heard that Heper is in good spirits, and that she’s been able to visit the jail’s infirmary to take her medication, but she’s concerned about her friend’s health issues, including high blood pressure.
“A situation like this is going to traumatizing and will undoubtedly exacerbate any health issues she has,” she said.
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