A screenshot of female PKK fighters from the movie trailer for 'Bakur.'
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — More than 40 human rights, film and cultural organizations defended imprisoned Turkish filmmakers Cayan Demirel and Ertugrul Mavioglu for their 2015 PKK documentary, 'Bakur' (North).
"We, the undersigned cultural and human rights organizations, call upon the Public Prosecutor's Office of Batman to drop charges immediately against filmmakers Cayan Demirel and Ertugrul Mavioglu and to cease efforts to criminalize the film and its makers," the letter dated May 28 read as reported by Reporters Without Borders, one of the signatories.
Demirel and Mavioglu were seen in a Batman court on Tuesday.
"The upcoming court proceeding against Demirel and Mavioğlu comes at a time when artists, academics and journalists in Turkey are being criminalized in alarming numbers for the peaceful exercise of their free speech," the letter continued.
Demirel and Mavioglu were able to give their defenses in front of a Batman court on Tuesday, however court proceedings were adjourned until October 23 to further review their case.
Bakur was due to be screened at the Istanbul film Festival mid-April 2015, but was cancelled at the last minute by the Ministry of Culture.
That quickly turned into a censorship row, after other filmmakers whose works were being screened at the festival decided to pull their entries in protest.
In addition, more than 100 Turkish filmmakers, including the winner of the Cannes film festival's Palme d'Or award, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, signed a letter objecting to censorship at the festival.
The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), which organized the April 4-19 festival in 2015, defended their decision by stating that "Bakur" was pulled because of a special clause invoked by the culture ministry stating that the film did not have the required official registration certificate to be shown.
Bakur has already been screened at several film festivals worldwide from 2015 to 2016.
If convicted in October, the already-jailed filmmakers face up to five years in prison.
"Journalism is not a crime to make cinematography," Mavioglu said in his defense in front of the Batman judge as reported by Turkish state news agency Evrensel. "We will continue to defend and defend peace, not death with Bakur."
The PKK is a banned political party in Turkey and designated as a terrorist organization. It has fought a nearly four-decade long guerrilla on-and-off war against the Turkish state, seeking greater cultural, political, and minority rights in the country. They are headquartered in the mountainous Qandil Region on the borders of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.