Turkey’s top court runs counter to ECtHR precedent in case of jailed journalist

In a ruling running counter to a precedent set by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in an application concerning the imprisonment of journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, the Turkish Constitutional Court found no rights violations in the case of journalist Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, who was jailed in a mass crackdown following a failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and was jailed for almost four years on bogus terrorism charges.

According to Turkish Minute, Kalyoncu, who used to work for the now-closed Aksiyon weekly magazine, was among the dozens of journalists who were jailed in the aftermath of the failed coup. The magazine was closed down by the government along with dozens of others media outlets due to its affiliation with the Gülen movement following the coup attempt.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016, labeling it as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive coup and any terrorist act.

Along with fellow journalists, Kalyoncu was convicted of membership in the Gülen movement and sentenced to prison. He was released along with five other journalists in June 2020 after the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their sentences, saying the defendants’ actions did not constitute sufficient evidence to prove their affiliation with the group.

Kalyoncu took his case to the Constitutional Court, claiming that his rights to personal liberty and security as well as his right to freedom of expression were violated due to his imprisonment.

The court rejected the journalist’s petition in a ruling that was published in the Official Gazette on Friday, saying the journalist’s imprisonment was based on plausible grounds.

Kalyoncu’s tweets and news reports were presented as evidence in the indictment.

The top court’s decision came in contrast to the recent ruling by the ECtHR, which faulted Turkey in the imprisonment of journalist Ilıcak.

Ilıcak, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges for previously working at media outlets considered close to the Gülen movement, was also among the journalists who were arrested following the failed coup.

In mid-December the court ruled that working for media outlets close to the Gülen movement and expressing doubts about the Turkish government’s narrative on the failed coup were not plausible grounds for terrorism-related charges.

Faulting Turkey for violating Ilıcak’s rights to liberty and security as well as freedom of expression, the ECtHR stated that the charges that led to her imprisonment for more than three years weren’t plausible.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, following corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Erdoğan’s close circle.

The war against the movement culminated after the attempted coup because Erdoğan and his AKP government accused the movement of masterminding the abortive putsch and initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on November 22.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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