The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has rejected Turkey’s request for additional time to submit its defense in cases against jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists. According to a report by Hurriyet daily news on Thursday, the Turkish Justice Ministry, which had already twice asked the ECtHR to be granted additional time, was rejected after its third request.
The ECtHR made an amendment to its bylaw on May 31, 2017 regarding the sorting of cases that will be processed, after journalists in a number of European countries applied to the court in recent years with complaints on violations of media freedom. Following the amendment, the ECtHR prioritized proceedings for applications filed by Turkish journalists in recent months and demanded the government’s defense in the cases of 10 journalists.
The court requested defenses in the rights violations cases filed by Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, Cumhuriyet CEO Akın Atalay and Cumhuriyet reporter Ahmet Şık, as well as journalists Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Murat Aksoy, Atilla Taş, and German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel. While Aksoy and Taş are being tried without arrest after being released from jail on October 26, the remaining 8 journalists are under arrest.
Asking for additional time, the Justice Ministry reportedly submitted no defenses to the ECtHR on allegations of “violations of the right to security, freedom and the freedom of expression,” despite the expiration of the Nov. 7 due date set by the court.
The court, however, accepted Turkey’s request for a deadline extension in the case of Şık, setting the new deadline for Nov. 15. Ankara was also given until Nov. 28 to send its defense in the case of Die Welt reporter Yücel, who has been under arrest on terror charges since February. Additional time requests for Aksoy, Taş, Alpay and Bulaç, meanwhile, were rejected.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of November 7, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 231 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.