Turkish gov’t releases two jailed journalists in pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem case

Journalist İnan Kızılkaya

Journalist Kemal Sancılı from the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem and acting news editor of the daily İnan Kızılkaya, were released on Tuesday, reported Turkish media.

Journalist Kemal Sancılı

Journalists Sancılı and Kızılkaya were the last group of journalists arrested on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” for Özgür Gündem, which was closed in August 2016 on terrorism charges by Turkish government under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2017.

Kızılkaya has been in prison since Aug. 26, 2016 on charges of membership in an armed organization and disrupting the unity and integrity of the state. Sancılı was jailed on Jan. 3, 2017 on the same charges.

A Turkish court in August 2016 ordered the interim closure of Özgür Gündem for alleged links to the PKK, spreading “terrorist propaganda” on their behalf and waging a war against the state.

Özgür Gündem, along with 14 other media outlets, was shut down in line with a post-coup government decree on Oct. 29, 2016.

Columnists and consultative committee members Filiz Koçali, Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Ragıp Zarakolu, Zana Kaya, Eren Keskin and Bilge Aykut are among the suspects in the case.

In another case concerning Özgür Gündem, Professor Beyza Üstün and journalist Ekrem Murat Çelikkan, who stood trial separately for serving as “editor-in-chief on duty” for the daily, were handed down suspended sentences of 15 months and 18 months, respectively, in May on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

Üstün and Çelikkan were among a group of intellectuals and press freedom activists who launched a campaign in solidarity with the daily, which was under heavy government pressure, between May 3 and Aug. 7, 2016. Prominent journalists and academics served as the “editor-in-chief on duty” for the newspaper in an act of solidarity.

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 37 journalists, academics and activists for acting as “editors-in-chief on duty” for the Özgür Gündem daily last year.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of October 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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