Lawyers call journalist’s arrest ‘disproportionate’ to the charges filed against him

Journalist Furkan Karabay

The lawyers for a journalist who was arrested last week due to one of his reports have objected to his arrest on the grounds that the charges do not require a prison sentence even if he is convicted, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Gerçek Gündem news website.

Furkan Karabay, an editor for Gerçek Gündem who was detained last Thursday for reporting on allegations of corruption implicating the judiciary was arrested on Friday.

He faces charges of “targeting officials fighting against terrorism” and “libel” over a news report based on the official minutes of a hearing.

In his questioning by the police, Karabay was asked how he got ahold of the minutes and whether he was acting on someone’s instructions, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

“As a journalist, I only act in the name of the public good,” Karabay said in response. “While I am not obligated to disclose my source, I would like to point out that the minutes are accessible by the public.”

The lawyers told the İstanbul court that had ruled for Karabay’s arrest in their petition that their client must be released from jail immediately because his arrest is against the law and disproportionate to the charges filed against him.

They said even if Karabay gets the maximum sentence of three years at the end of his trial, he will not be sent to prison because the sentence is less than three years.

For some crimes when the maximum sentence is less than three years, people are not sent to jail and their sentences are suspended, according to Turkey’s criminal laws.

The lawyers also said journalists who have faced similar charges were acquitted and that Karabay wrote his report based on information in publicly available sources.

Meanwhile, Karabay sent a New Year’s message from Marmara Prison, where most of Turkey’s political prisoners are jailed. In his message on X posted by his lawyers, the journalist said he is welcoming the new year with people who have been unlawfully jailed after being labeled as “terrorists,” in reference to political prisoners such as businessman Osman Kavala, lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı and opposition lawmaker Can Ataklı.

“I am proud of my journalism,” he said and wished everyone a happy new year.

Karabay was previously detained and released under judicial supervision for another report on judicial corruption allegations.

The news report that led to his previous detention concerned a letter sent by İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar, who exposed an alleged network of bribery within the judiciary.

Addressed to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), Uçar’s letter had detailed alleged bribery, nepotism and other irregularities in the system.

Karabay’s social media posts about the matter were censored by the authorities.

Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranks 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which was announced in early May.

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