Court releases two campaigners arrested on terror charges after ‘editor-in-chief on duty’ campaign

Court releases two campaigners arrested on terror charges after ‘editor-in-chief on duty’ campaign

ISTANBUL
Court releases two campaigners arrested on terror charges after ‘editor-in-chief on duty’ campaign

Two of the three campaigners who were arrested on charges of “making terror propaganda” after supporting a solidarity campaign with daily Özgür Gündem were released pending trial on June 30.


A local court ordered the release of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) head Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, Fincancı’s lawyer Oya Meriç Eyüboğlu announced on June 30. Both were expected to be released from prison in the evening hours.
 
Meriç said they were still working for the release of journalist Ahmet Nesin, whose file is at another court.

An Istanbul court ordered the arrest of all three campaigners on charges of “making terror propaganda” after they served as guest editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem to display solidarity with the daily, after it launched a “editors-in-chief on duty” campaign on May 3, World Press Freedom Day. 

Özgür Gündem has been repeatedly closed down in the past and is seen as being close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The daily started the campaign on May 3 to provide solidarity and defend press freedom against a number of investigations it has faced.

A total of 44 prominent journalists – including Can Dündar, Hasan Cemal, Şeyhmus Diken, Tuğrul Eryılmaz and Ayşe Düzkan – served as one-day editors-in-chief during the campaign. Some 37 of them have been investigated up to now.

The indictment against Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin was prepared by a terror and organized crimes prosecutor, who demanded jail terms from two years to up to 14 years and six months for the trio. They were accused of overtly inciting and praising crime, in addition to making terror organization propaganda. 
The indictment prepared by terror and organized crimes prosecutor demanded jail terms for the trio from two years to 14 years and six months.

The trio was accused of overtly inciting crime, praising crime and making terror organization propaganda.
The news of the trio’s arrest unleashed a wave of national and international criticism as senior officials and diplomats – including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – expressed concern over the status of freedoms in Turkey. 

The U.N. head held a meeting with the head of RSF on June 21, expressing concern over threats against journalists around the world and conveyed his hope for the release of the organization’s Turkey representative as soon as possible. 

Leading rights groups, including PEN International and the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Önderoğlu and his colleagues while U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the incident was another reflection of a “troubling trend” against freedom of expression.

Inside Turkey, more than 100 journalists initiated a petition campaign, expressing their willingness to take part in Özgür Gündem’s campaign to demonstrate their readiness to “risk” taking on the duty position. 

“We condemn these arrests which do not comply in any way with the law, democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and people’s right to be informed. We demand the immediate release of Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin,” the signatories of the petition said in a statement. 

Soon afterwards, a delegation from the RSF, accompanied by a number of press groups, staged a demonstration outside Istanbul’s Metris Prison on June 24, demanding the release of the campaigners. 

Recently, five more journalists who were set to testify at a local court on June 27 for “making terror propaganda” as part of the solidarity campaign, were instead referred to the police to have their testimonies taken in line with a “new procedure.”

Elsewhere, arrested Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Bilal Güldem was also released by a court in the southeastern province of Mardin at his first hearing after 71 days under arrest. 

With the releases, the number of arrested journalists in Turkey has fallen to 33.