Turkish court orders release of jailed journalist Sedef Kabaş

An İstanbul court on Friday ordered the release of prominent TV journalist Sedef Kabaş, who has been behind bars since Jan. 22, handing down a suspended sentence of two years, four months on charges of insulting the president, Turkish Minute reported on Friday.

Kabaş was facing up to 12 years, 10 months in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Transportation Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu.

The İstanbul 36th Criminal Court of First Instance on Friday released Kabaş at her first hearing, acquitting her of the charges of insulting a public official and giving her a suspended sentence for insulting the president.

Kabaş said in her defense that she would walk free if she were a member of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or a drug dealer.

“If I were a member of ISIL today and on the police’s suicide bomber list, I’d be free. I’d be walking free if I were trafficking drugs,” she said on Friday.

Kabaş added that she would harshly criticize Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) if necessary but that it would be within the scope of freedom of expression and a part of a journalist’s job.

“I’ll continue to speak the truth after all the current government has done to me, to us,” Kabaş vowed.

“Is there a judge in this country who would stand up to a request by Tayyip Erdoğan? That judge must risk banishment. … This trial won’t end here. We’ll file an application at the ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights] after exhausting all [domestic] remedies. I’ve never worshipped power, I wish you wouldn’t, either,” Kabaş’s lawyer Uğur Poyraz said Friday.

“Sedef Kabaş is now free” the journalist announced in a tweet posted upon her release.

Kabaş was detained during a midnight police raid in İstanbul on Jan. 22 following comments she made about Erdoğan on a TV program aired on TELE1 on Jan. 14.

Commenting on Erdoğan’s years-long performance as president during the television program, Kabaş said, quoting a Circassian proverb, “When an [ox] enters a palace, it doesn’t become a king. [However], that palace becomes a barn.”

Kabaş also posted the proverb on Twitter, which prompted an investigation into her on charges of insulting the president.

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