Journalist Büşra Erdal has been denied release from prison although she has been eligible for parole since March 30, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist and a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said on Friday.
Erdal worked as a correspondent for the Zaman daily, which at one time had been the highest circulating newspaper in Turkey before it was first seized by the government on March 4, 2016 over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement and later shut down. Erdal was sentenced to six years, three months in prison for alleged membership in the movement.
According to the Turkish Penal Code, people convicted of membership in a terrorist organization are eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence. However, if the Supreme Court of Appeals does not approve the original sentence, then the convict cannot benefit from parole.
Although Erdal served the required part of her sentence, three years, eight months in this case, she was not released initially because the Supreme Court of Appeals had not upheld her sentence. After the court approved her case, Erdal’s release was denied by the prison administration based on a statement from the parole board that she had not denounced the movement.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Gergerlioğlu said prisoners like Erdal are in a constant “steeplechase” seeking justice. Earlier, upon being asked about her needs in prison, Erdal had said, “My biggest need is for justice and freedom.”
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey is “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.”