Turkey frees reporters jailed after failed appeal in state secrets trial

Two Turkish journalists convicted of violating Turkey’s state secrets law were released late on Tuesday the very same day they returned to prison after losing an appeal against their jail sentences, their lawyer told Agence France-Presse.

The 2020 trial concerned a news report alleging that a Turkish intelligence officer was killed in Libya after Ankara provided support to the UN-recognized government in Tripoli.

In September that year, the Istanbul court sentenced Aydın Keser, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel — who works for the Yeniçağ daily — to four years and eight months in jail each on charges of violating the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) law.

It sentenced then OdaTV editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan and reporter Hülya Kılınç to three years and nine months each on the same charges.

Ağırel and Pehlivan tweeted on Tuesday that they were returning to prison.

“A third time… We’re here, we’re going… Goodbye for now,” Pehlivan tweeted, with a selfie in front of what appeared to be Istanbul’s main Çağlayan courthouse.

“I am going to prison again because I called the sons who were martyred for the homeland martyrs,” Ağırel tweeted.

“People who cannot deny anything I have written until now think they can silence me with injustice,” he added.

Hours later, the pair were released from prison, their lawyer Hüseyin Ersoz told AFP.

“And freedom has come. Just now!” the lawyer also tweeted, sharing a picture with the freed journalists.

Turkish media said Kılınç, who was jailed Tuesday in the western province of Manisa after undergoing a health check, was also expected to walk free.

Turkey comes under frequent criticism from rights defenders, who say Ankara undermines media freedom by jailing journalists and shutting down critical media outlets.

Reporters Without Borders placed Turkey 153rd out of 180 nations on its Press Freedom Index for 2021.

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