Journalists Barış Pehlivan and Murat Ağırel were arrested on Tuesday to serve sentences handed down over their reports on a Turkish intelligence officer killed in Libya, Turkish media reported.
The two journalists turned themselves in Tuesday morning at the Çağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul. In a Twitter post Ağırel said everything he wrote was true and that the authorities were pressuring him into silence.
Speaking to journalists in front of the courthouse, Ağırel said their arrest was upsetting and indicated that the judicial system in Turkey was under political pressure. “We will continue our search for justice,” he said. “We are journalists, and we stand by our pen. We will appeal to the Constitutional Court and later to the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR].”
Pehlivan said goodbye on Twitter, adding that he was going to prison for the third time.
İşte geldik, gidiyoruz… Hoşça kalın şimdilik… pic.twitter.com/zA1kSHmzzS
— Barış Pehlivan (@barispehlivan) February 15, 2022
Criticizing the arrest of the journalists, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) tweeted that journalism was not a crime.
— MLSA (@mlsaturkey) February 15, 2022
Agirel and Pehlivan were among five journalists who were sentenced to prison in September 2020 by the İstanbul 34th High Criminal Court on charges of “disclosing information related to national security” and “disclosing documents pertaining to intelligence operations.”
Pehlivan was sentenced to three years, nine months, while Agirel received a four-year, eight-month sentence.
Their sentences were upheld by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice on February 2.
The journalists published reports and tweeted about the secretly held funeral of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) agent killed during a mission in Libya.
Journalist Barış Terkoğlu was acquitted of the charges along with Eren Ekinci, an employee of the municipality where the intelligence officer’s funeral took place, who was accused of providing pictures to the journalists of the funeral of the deceased intelligence officer.
The charges against the journalists center on articles and social media posts published shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in February 2020 that Turkey had “several martyrs” in Libya.
According to the indictment, Ağırel was the first to reveal the identity of the intelligence officer, sharing his name and photos on Twitter and referencing Erdoğan’s comments.
Turkey had provided military support and training in Libya to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it fend off a 14-month assault on Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces led by military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index announced in April.