NEW YORK—The denial of drinking water to imprisoned Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik is another chilling example of Turkish authorities’ inability or refusal to meet prisoners’ basic needs following a dramatic uptick in arrests, PEN America said in a statement today.

Sik was reportedly denied drinking water for three days in Metris Prison, an allegation consistent with other accusations against the Turkish prison system since the declaration of a state of emergency triggered by a July 15 coup attempt. Sik had been kept in solitary confinement and not permitted to meet with his lawyers until January 5, when he relayed that the tap water in Metris Prison is undrinkable, which the government denies. He also claimed that he was unable to purchase water for three days because “the cafeteria was closed.”

Ahmet Sik, a prominent investigative journalist who has been detained previously in relation to his work, was arrested on December 30, 2016, for tweets about the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and critical articles in the opposition daily Cumhuriyet. He is charged with making “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “denigrating the Turkish Republic.”

“The mistreatment of detainees evident in Sik’s case shows a callous attitude that is not only cruel, but also dangerous,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “The dramatic increase in arrests of writers and journalists in Turkey in the past six months has highlighted the poor quality of conditions these detainees face, and Turkish authorities must work with all haste to ensure that they receive basic essentials and care.”

Turkey’s respect for press freedom and free expression has dramatically worsened in the wake of an attempted coup in July 2016. More than 100 writers and journalists are behind bars, while many others are facing travel bans, legal charges, or other harsh restrictions. Prominent writer Asli Erdoğan, who was released from prison on December 29 after more than four months behind bars, also reported having been denied water and medical treatment during her time in Bakirkoy Prison. In August, PEN America initiated a petition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (no relation to Asli Erdoğan) demanding an end to attacks on and imprisonment of writers.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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