ECtHR to take up Cumhuriyet journalists’ cases on priority basis

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to examine on a priority basis applications filed by jailed journalists and executives from the Cumhuriyet daily, Cumhuriyet reported on Thursday.

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

The ECtHR has sent a notification to one of the Cumhuriyet lawyers Fikret İlkiz, telling him that his clients’ cases will be taken up as soon as possible. Cumhuriyet lawyers applied to the ECtHR in early March when an application they filed at Turkey’s Constitutional Court in December was still not reviewed.

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 Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of masterminding the failed coup attempt on July 15. The movement strongly denies the accusation.

Italian journalist Gabriele del Grande is working for the ANSA news agency.

Meanwhile, it is reported that Turkish authorities will deport Gabriele del Grande, an Italian journalist working for the ANSA news agency, who was detained during a security check in the southern province of Hatay on Tuesday, according to Turkish media reports. Relying on Italian diplomatic sources in Turkey, some Turkish media outlets reported that the Italian journalist will be deported from Turkey.

The reason for the detention of the 35-year-old journalist is still not clear. Italian authorities have reportedly taken action to secure the release of the journalist who traveled to Turkey several days ago to conduct interviews for a book he is writing about the war in Syria and the birth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The detention and arrest of foreign journalists as well as their deportation are becoming more common in Turkey, which has the highest number of journalists in the world in its prisons.

As of April 1, 2017, Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Stockholm-based monitoring and rights advocacy group, has confirmed that 228 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a new world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 194 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. 13 jailed journalists have been re-detained just after they were released by an İstanbul court on March 31, 2017. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for at least 100 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey. (SCF with April 13, 2017

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