ECtHR sets Dec. 5 as deadline for Turkish gov’t defense over jailed journalists

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has set December 5, 2017 as the deadline for Turkish government to submit its defense in cases against jailed journalists after Ankara has requested an extension for the deadline on November 7.

“The time-limit has been set at December 5, 2017 for the submission of the [Turkish] Government’s observations in reply to all of the third party submissions,” the ECtHR said in its ruling released on its official website on Thursday.

“Turkey has already submitted its defense previously regarding the case, but once third parties such as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks and various NGOs intervened in the case as third parties, the country was once again required to hand in another defense regarding the third parties’ own ‘observations,’” the ECtHR said in its statement.

“On November 7, 2017, the [Turkish] Government requested an extension of four weeks of the time allowed for submission of their observations in reply to the third-party submissions of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. Having taken note of the reason advanced, the President of the Section decided to grant the extension,” it said.

“Noting that there were three different time limits for each of the third parties and in order to ensure the proper administration of justice,” the top court ruled to set Dec. 5 for Turkey to submit it defense regarding the observations of all third parties.

The case involves the defenses in rights violations cases filed by Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu as well as journalists Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Murat Aksoy, singer and columnist Atilla Taş. While Aksoy and Taş are being tried without arrest after being released from jail on Oct. 26, the remaining eight journalists are under arrest.

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 also said their detention was a sanction against them for criticizing the government and amounted to politically motivated judicial harassment.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 257 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of November 15, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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