Turkish court releases prominent journalist Kadri Gürsel from jail
An Istanbul court ordered the release of veteran journalist Kadri Gürsel on Sept. 25 in the third hearing of the case into critical Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.
While ruling for the release of Gürsel, the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court ruled for the continued arrest of four others including reporter Ahmet Şık and editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu.
“I thank everyone who supported us throughout and trial process. It showed us the importance of solidarity once again. If a public opinion was formed, it was thanks to that support,” Gürsel told reporters early on Sept. 26 upon his release after 11 months in jail.
“However, there is nothing to rejoice about because there are Cumhuriyet employees that are under arrest unjustly and on baseless accusations. The freedom of our friends has been taken away,” he added.
He was greeted by his wife Nazire Kalkan Gürsel, relatives, friends and several MPs from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“Each hearing of the Cumhuriyet case was historic because it showed how journalism could be defended and how empty the accusations were,” Gürsel also said.
“Every journalist wants to write, as long as the conditions allow them. I will of course continue to write,” he vowed
Some 17 Cumhuriyet staff are accused in the case on terrorism charges, with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) among the groups named in the indictments.
During the hearing on Sept. 25 around 200 people, including CHP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers, gathered outside Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse carrying portraits of the jailed journalists and banners with slogans including “Freedom for journalists” and “Independent press cannot be silenced.”
During the hearing, the former acting chair of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, which owns the daily, Alev Coşkun, and writer Rıza Zelyurt gave their testimonies as witnesses.
“I worked with them. I know their past. These colleagues cannot be terrorists, those friends cannot be members of FETÖ,” Coşkun told the court.
In addition to Şık and Sabuncu, accountant Emre İper and Cumhuriyet’s chairman Akın Atalay will remain arrested.
Şık, who was jailed previously, wrote a book titled “The Imam’s Army,” which focused on the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen within the police and the judiciary at a time when the network and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were close. He was freed on March 12, 2012.
Also on trial in the case is a teacher, Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu, who maintained a popular Twitter account. He is accused of being a terror group leader, and although his case is unrelated to the one against Cumhuriyet it has been merged into the same trial.
Eyebrows were raised during the hearing late on Sept. 25, when the Twitter accounts of pro-government dailies Star and Akşam broke news misleadingly claiming that the court had ruled that all suspects would remain under arrest via before the actual ruling was issued.
The lawyers of the Cumhuriyet staff conveyed the incident to the court head Abdurrahman Orkun Dağ, who said a complaint would be filed against the two papers.
“Punitive action will be taken against those who wrote these articles, or if there is a person who leaks rulings from here,” Dağ said, after which Şık claimed that “someone from the court board has been presenting documents to media outlets.”
The next hearing of the case will be held on Oct. 31.