Turkish court rejects request for release of jailed journalist

Journalist Barış Pehlivan

A high criminal court in İstanbul has rejected a request for the release from prison of journalist Barış Pehlivan, who was put behind bars for a fifth time this summer, his lawyer announced.

Hüseyin Ersöz announced on the X social media platform on Friday that a request for the release of his client Pehlivan from prison has been rejected by the Silivri High Criminal Court. Ersöz said the journalist was denied release from prison despite the fact that he is legally eligible to be freed under judicial supervision.

Pehlivan, the former editor-in-chief at Oda TV and contributor to the Cumhuriyet newspaper, has been behind bars since mid-August in Marmara Prison in İstanbul, formerly known as Silivri Prison, where many government critics are held.

Ersöz said he would take Pehlivan’s case to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that his rights have been violated.

Pehlivan and six other journalists were sentenced to three years, nine months in prison in 2020 for reporting on the funeral of a member of Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency who was operating in Libya, where Ankara supports the UN-recognized Tripoli government.

Pehlivan has already been imprisoned four times, twice of which involved him spending a day behind bars — once in February and once in May.

While the intel agent’s death has never been denied by the Turkish authorities, the reporters were charged with revealing “state secrets.”

Pehlivan was recalled this time to serve eight months of the 2020 sentence for violating the country’s national intelligence laws.

“People go to jail [in Turkey] just for writing the truth, just for doing journalism,” Pehlivan said before being sent to prison.

“Mine is a drop in the ocean, in this big fight,” he told media before his imprisonment.

Press freedom advocates condemned the “judicial harassment” of the journalist and urged the Turkish government to respect media freedom.

Turkey is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s latest press freedom index.

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