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RIGHTS >Colleagues demand release of jailed journalists on 200th day of Cumhuriyet arrests

ISTANBUL/ANKARA

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Journalists staged protests in Istanbul and Ankara to demand the release of daily Cumhuriyet journalists, executives and employees on the 200th day of their arrest on May 18.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Çağlayan courthouse in Istanbul and made a press statement demanding “freedom for the truth,” while holding pictures of the jailed journalists. 

The Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), DİSK Basın-İş, as well as relatives of the arrested journalists and executives, participated in the demonstration and opened a banner reading “Freedom for journalists.” 

DİSK Basın-İş head Faruk Eren was the first to make a statement, saying Cumhuriyet’s employees were detained in raids on their houses and noting that they had been deprived of their freedom for 200 days. 

“This is what we call the hypocrisy of justice. We, as journalists, are making a statement here because the number of jailed journalists is increasing day by day,” Eren said, adding that nearly 160 journalists are in jail in Turkey. 

TGC General Secretary Sibel Güneş said journalists in Turkey “cannot express themselves.” 

“Those who express themselves are in jail. We want the release of our colleagues, who didn’t sell out their conscience, mind and pen to anybody, but are on duty only for the right of people to obtain information,” Güneş added. 

Another name who spoke during the demonstration was journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, describing the situation as “ridiculous.”

“They deprive our friends from receiving letters and reading books. Those who oppress them will one day be held accountable,” Mavioğlu said, describing the recent arrest of Cumhuriyet’s web chief Oğuz Güven as “the point where words fail.” 

Güven was arrested on charges of “making propaganda of a terrorist organization,” following a tweet that was deleted 55 seconds after it was shared on Cumhuriyet’s official Twitter account regarding the death of a chief public prosecutor. The prosecutor had been the first to launch an investigation into the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. 

Ten of Cumhuriyet’s journalists, cartoonists and executives have been under arrest for 200 days, while renowned journalist Ahmet Şık has been inside for 139 days, accountant worker Emre İper for 42 days, and Güven for four days. 

In the capital, another protest was held in front of the Ankara courthouse with the participation of lawyers and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal. 

After lawyer Murat Yılmaz gave a speech on behalf of the Contemporary Lawyers Association, the demonstrators wanted to do a sit-in protest for a while. However, police officers circled the lawyers and told them that they would intervene if they did so. 

Tanal, in return, spoke to the security officials but could not obtain any result. 

“I didn’t have the intention to sit down but I will do so too,” he said as police started to make preparations to disperse the demonstrators. 

A brawl erupted after police and private security refused to allow lawyers to enter the courthouse as a group and tension rose further after a security officer reportedly pushed Tanal.

May/18/2017

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