Seven journalists and executives from daily Cumhuriyet were released from Istanbul’s Silivri prison late on July 28 after a local court ordered their release in the case which they had been tried on terror charges.
Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Musa Kart, Güray Tekinöz, Turhan Günay, Önder Çelik and Hakan Karasinir were greeted by friends, relatives and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies outside the prison.
Speaking to reporters after his release, cartoonist Musa Kart said they served nine months in prison due to unlawful and baseless accusations and said the indictment trying to associate the daily with the Gülen network had failed.
“Actually I was thinking that I would be so happy at the moment of release but today I cannot say that I am happy. Sadly, four of our friends are still in Silivri prison. I cannot suit an image that shows journalists in prison to this country. I hope that we will also take our four friends from Silivri and create the most beautiful picture together,” Kart said, adding that they had been relaxed from the very first day due to solidarity at both home and abroad.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
also voiced his happiness over the journalists' release.
"I am glad on behalf of the seven released journalists and their beloved ones and I hope that other journalists who are waiting for justice will be freed immediately," Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted on July 29.
The Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), which has pushed for Kart’s release, said the news was "better than could have been expected" but added there was "little comfort" for the families of those returning to jail.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described the release of the seven as a "small step in the right direction" but said they should never have been jailed.
"Authorities should put an end to this farcical trial by immediately dropping the transparently retaliatory charges," said CPJ Europe
and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova.
"Deficient justice," headlined Cumhuriyet, above the pictures of the four staff still in prison.
"Our friends and their lawyers proved that the accusations are baseless and illegal... The world saw it, the court did not," it added.
The Istanbul 27th high criminal court on July 28 ordered the release of seven journalists and executives from the daily but rejected the release demand for another five, including Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel Murat Sabuncu and Akın Atalay.
17 journalists and executives had testified over the past five days after being held for more than 270 days.
The charges directed at them include “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.”