REGIONS:

SUBSCRIBE:

Sign up for weekly updates

Turkey: Pre-trial detention extended for "Cumhuriyet" journalists

Turkish soldiers stand guard outside the Silivri Prison and Courthouse complex during the
Turkish soldiers stand guard outside the Silivri Prison and Courthouse complex during the "Cumhuriyet" trial in Silivri near Istanbul, Turkey, 11 September 2017

REUTERS/Osman Orsal

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 12 September 2017.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) condemn the court's decision to maintain the six Cumhuriyet journalists and media workers in pre-trial detention, after a 13-hour long hearing at Silivri prison, on 11 September 2017 despite clear demonstration by the defendants' lawyers [in contradiction of] the charges of "without being a member of that organisation, spreading propaganda on behalf of an illegal terrorist organisation".

An international delegation including the IFJ-EFJ, IPI, PEN International, Norsk PEN, PEN Vlaanderen, RSF, foreign consulate representatives, foreign press correspondents and MEP Rebecca Harms attended the hearing and shared solidarity messages with all the defendants. Around 400 individuals - including 130 lawyers, 15 members of the Turkish Parliament and trade union representatives from TGS, DISK-Basin Is and TGC were allowed to enter the courtroom and a similar number of people were kept outside.

Following the 6th hearing which started at 9:00, the court ruled in an interim decision at 23:40 - after hearing seven witnessess, an IT expert, lawyers and defendants - that Akın Atalay, Ahmet Şık, Kemal Aydoğdu, Emre İper, Kadri Gürsel and Murat Sabuncu must remain under arrest until the next hearing scheduled for 25 September at 15:30.

One of the judges expressed a dissenting opinion to release Kadri Gürsel on probation but the majority of the court was in favor of prolonging his pre-trial detention. The journalists have been in captivity for over 300 days.

The ruling was motivated by the fact that three witnesses are yet to be interrogated and that the expert report is still to be delivered regarding the journalists' professional phone examination.

The court has also asked the journalists to share their passwords to get access to some protected communications despite the fact that they demonstrated and detailed all their contents during the hearing.

"The defendants have been held for months in pre-trial detention on baseless evidence. The independence of the judiciary is clearly lacking when we hear all the charges, the witnesses and the defence's demonstrations. The courage and the professionalism of our colleagues is amazing in such a chaotic situation! They should be released immediately and all charges should be dropped"
IFJ/EFJ representative Mehmet Koksal, following the ruling

Along with many other international organisations, the IFJ and EFJ went to Istanbul on Monday 11 September to monitor the trial:

"The defendants have been held for months in pre-trial detention on baseless evidence. The independence of the judiciary is clearly lacking when we hear all the charges, the witnesses and the defence's demonstrations. The courage and the professionalism of our colleagues is amazing in such a chaotic situation! They should be released immediately and all charges should be dropped," IFJ/EFJ representative Mehmet Koksal said following the ruling.

In addition, the IFJ/EFJ welcomed the statement of Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling on Turkey to release journalists from prison and remove restrictions on media freedom.

"We have repeatedly urged Turkey to drop charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives. They must be released immediately, together with all journalists in prison in the country," the two mandate holders said. "Freedom of expression is not a right that may only be exercised when deemed convenient by those in power."

Charges against the defendants include "helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member" and "employment-related abuse of trust".

"We have repeatedly urged Turkey to drop charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives. They must be released immediately, together with all journalists in prison in the country. Freedom of expression is not a right that may only be exercised when deemed convenient by those in power."
Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression

The next hearing will take place at Istanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse on 25 September.

Latest Tweet:

Au Cameroun,la législation anti-terroriste est utilisée pour imposer silence aux opposants et réprimer la dissidenc… https://t.co/hBH9FmM5bp