Joy as human rights campaigner released in Turkey

Stephen Kaczynski. Picture: contributed

Stephen Kaczynski. Picture: contributed

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A HUMAN rights campaigner from the Capital has been freed after being held for five-and-a-half months in a Turkish jail.

Steve Kaczynski was arrested in April in a police raid on the Idil Culture Centre, Istanbul, ahead of a symposium where he was due to act as interpreter.

He spent nearly seven weeks on hunger strike in protest at being locked up in isolation for 23 hours a day and denied visits, access to books and letters.

But following a court hearing within the past few weeks, he has been released and deported.

Mr Kaczynski, 52, is now in London and planning to come up to Edinburgh in the near future.

His mother, Ann, who lives in Gilmerton, said: “I’m over the moon. I’m so relieved he is out of there and so thankful.”

She said the worry and uncertainty over her son had been hard to cope with.

“It was awful. I didn’t want to go around moaning when it wasn’t about me, but it was difficult. I’m just so happy he’s back,” she said.

It is believed Mr Kaczynski was held on suspicion of links to banned left-wing organisation DHKP-C. Members of left-wing Turkish music group Grup Yorum were arrested at the same time but later released.

Mr Kaczynski had worked as a journalist, including several years with the BBC World Service, and written extensively about human rights abuses in Turkish jails before his arrest.

His brother, Brian, who 
visited Turkey to try to secure his release, said he was relieved at the outcome of the case.

He said: “They had a court hearing and he was released. They said they couldn’t hold him any longer and, because his visa was up, they deported him. He’s in London now, seeing doctors, and getting his strength back. The Turkish community in London he was working with gave him a party. He’s hoping to come up to Edinburgh very soon to see family.

Brian said it had been “a terrible time”, adding: “It’s tragic he had to spend so long in prison just for staying in a cultural centre. It’s an abuse of counter-terrorism measures to suppress opposition.

“I’m glad he’s out, but it’s a terrible way to spend five-and-a-half months of your life just for what you believe in.”

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie, who took up Steve’s case, said: “This is a very good outcome for Mr Kaczynski and the family. It was a very trying and stressful time for them, especially since he was so far away from home.”

Mr Eadie wrote to the Prime Minister about Mr Kaczynski’s plight, had regular talks with the Foreign Office and kept the First Minister informed of developments.

He praised the Foreign Office for its role in ensuring regular welfare checks were made on Mr Kaczynski while he was in prison.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com