Press release: First contact with attorney after a month for journalists detained in Irak, Marlene Förster and Matej Kavčič

The two journalists detained in Baghdad, Matej Kavčič and Marlene Förster, were able to contact their attorneys for the first time on May 15th and 16th. This has been their first official contact with an attorney since they were arrested on April 20th 2022. The contact was made possible in connection with a judicial hearing. At the same time, 42.000 people have signed the petition to release the journalists. (1)

The first conversation between Matej Kavčič and his attorney occurred on Sunday, May 15th. The attorney was able to attend Matej’s judicial hearing and offer legal support for his client.

A first conversation between Marlene Förster and her attorney occurred on the following day, May 16th, in the additional presence of staff members of the German embassy. This conversation was followed by a judicial hearing of Marlene, which her attorney was also able to attend.

According to mother Lydia Förster, it has to be assumed that Marlene Förster is being pressured by Iraqi authorities to release information about her sources and her journalistic research.

The German embassy, as well as Marlene Förster’s attorney, had been trying to contact her for the past couple of weeks, to no avail until yesterday. Even after Marlene had gotten the approval to call her mother by the Iraqi court on May 11th, the German embassy had not been able to press for a visit. Furthermore, it was Lydia Förster, who had to inform German authorities of the phone call with her daughter. Apparently the latter are not in sufficient contact with authorities in Iraq.

Lydia Förster, on hearing the news that her daughter was able to talk to an attorney, says: „I’m glad that, after almost a month, there has been direct contact between Marlene and her attorney. However, why this has taken so long, in spite of the many requests by the German embassy, remains a mystery to me.“

After the hearing on May 16th it became clear that the Iraqi authorities are currently investigating Marlene on the suspicion of illegal entry and espionage. However, a written confirmation still does not exist. Since then, the German embassy has confirmed that Marlene is facing allegations of espionage.

Lydia Förster appreciates the elimination of rumours that Marlene is facing allegations of terrorism support. „Still it is clear that the state of Iraq is trying to criminalize free journalism in connection with the current situation in Şengal“, says Förster.

Malte Buchholz underlines the necessity of his friend Marlene’s reports. Says he: „The situation in Şengal has been getting worse for weeks. The bombings by Turkish combat drones, as well as attacks by the Iraqi military have become a dreadful part of everyday life for people there.“

Both journalists experienced attacks by the Turkish airforce during their stay in Şengal. In the night of February 1st 2022 alone, 22 locations in Şengal were bombarded by Turkish F16 fighter jets as well as combat drones. On this day Marlene Förster sent a short message to her friends via phone: „Just briefly. Bombarding started yesterday. Was able to see it from my location. Today I was on the move all day and there were drones and jets flying over us all the time. It was quite the confusion.“

(1) Link to the Online-Petition at Change.org: https://chng.it/gRqwz4DGLg

Press contact:

Lydia Förster (Mother of detained journalist Marlene)
Mobil: +49 160 92170839

Malte Buchholz (Marlene’s friend and former roommate)
Mobil: +49 175 9018519 (presse@freemarleneandmatej.org)

Leonie Tafel (Marlene’s friend)
Mobil: +49 163 3577950 (presse@freemarleneandmatej.org)