ECtHR asks for Turkey’s defense in case of jailed Cumhuriyet journalists

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asked Turkey to submit a defense in the case against jailed Cumhuriyet daily journalists, telling  the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to submit a written defense by Oct. 2.

In April, the ECtHR agreed to give priority to the cases of arrested Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, asking Turkey to provide the reasons for jailing them.

Ten journalists and executives from the Cumhuriyet daily, including its Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, were arrested on terror charges by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace last November.

In a press statement on Tuesday, the Strasbourg-based court said the applicants challenged the relevant detention orders before judges of the peace and applied, unsuccessfully, for release and they also lodged individual petitions before the Constitutional Court; those proceedings are currently pending.

The court also gave details about the Cumhuriyet staff’s application that was made on March 2, saying it was made based on the right to liberty and security, right to a speedy review of the lawfulness of the detention, freedom of expression and limitations on the use of restrictions on rights.

According to the ECtHR, the journalists and executives complained about their pre-trial detention and its duration, and also claimed that there had been a breach of their freedom of expression. They further alleged that their detention was a sanction against them for criticizing the government and amounted to politically motivated judicial harassment.

The Cumhuriyet journalists and executives face allegations of aiding the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and “FETÖ.”

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government to refer to the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15. The movement strongly denies the accusation.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of May 27, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 241 are arrested pending trial, only 23 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt. (SCF with June 13, 2107

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