Turkey ordered to pay damages to journalist Baransu due to his long pretrial detention

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ordered Turkey to pay 9,800 euros to journalist Mehmet Baransu, a former correspondent for the now-defunct Taraf newspaper, for violation of his right to trial within a reasonable period of time, Turkish Minute reported.

Turkey violated Article 5 § 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that “everyone arrested or detained … shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial,” according to a ruling that was announced on Tuesday.

The Strasbourg court decided to join two applications lodged by Baransu on Nov. 17, 2016 and July 25, 2019 regarding his pretrial detention and its duration, which raises issues under Article 5 § 3 of the convention.

Finding that the Turkish government violated Baransu’s rights due to the lack of relevant and sufficient reasons for his placement and maintenance in pretrial detention, the court ordered Turkey to pay him 7,800 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 2,000 euros for costs and expenses.

Baransu’s pretrial detention lasted for six years, between March 1, 2015 and March 8, 2021.

He was arrested in 2015 for allegedly obtaining and publishing secret state documents in connection with the disclosure of a war plan called the Egemen (Sovereign) Operation Plan. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, six years for acquiring secret information and seven for “exposing secret information” in March 2022. A higher court overturned the verdict in October and ruled to release Baransu on the grounds that his legal period of detention had expired.

Baransu is also jailed pending trial in a separate case that concerns his reporting in 2013 on alleged customs fraud involving genetically modified rice. The indictment accuses Baransu of “attempting to overthrow the government” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”

According to the ECtHR decision, in two judgments in July and October 2019 the Anadolu High Criminal Court sentenced Baransu to one year, nine months and three months, 15 days of imprisonment in another criminal case for defamation of a public official and defamation through written, audio or visual messages. On Jan. 27, 2021, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld these judgments, and Baransu began serving his sentence on March 8, 2021.

On an unknown date, another criminal action was initiated against Baransu before the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court for membership in a terrorist organization. On July 17, 2020, that court convicted him of the alleged offense.

On March 4, 2022 the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court sentenced Baransu to six years’ imprisonment for obtaining classified documents related to state security and seven years’ imprisonment for disclosing classified documents related to state security and political interests.

Finally, considering the judgment of July 17, 2020 rendered by the Mersin court, the court rejected the criminal action concerning membership in a terrorist organization. The criminal proceedings are currently pending before domestic courts.

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