US urges Turkey to release ‘arbitrarily jailed’ Cumhuriyet journalists

US urges Turkey to release ‘arbitrarily jailed’ Cumhuriyet journalists

ANKARA
US urges Turkey to release ‘arbitrarily jailed’ Cumhuriyet journalists

The United States has urged Turkey that it expects the release of journalists who are being held arbitrarily under the emergency rule with regards to the ongoing trials of 17 executives and journalists of the daily Cumhuriyet. 

“We continue to urge the government of Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to also release the journalists and others who we believe are being held arbitrarily under the government’s state of emergency,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters at a daily press briefing July 27. 

Nauert’s remarks came when asked about the ongoing trials of 17 executives and journalists from Cumhuriyet, including editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, executive manager Akın Atalay, prominent journalists Kadri Gürsel and Ahmet Şık, and cartoonist Musa Kart, who are being accused on terror-related charges. Twelve out of 17 have been behind bars since November 2016. The court is expected to issue an interim verdict on July 28. 

Turkey has been under serious criticisms from mainly European Union countries over the arrests of journalists under the emergency rule that was put in place in July 2016 after the failed coup. Washington’s new leaders were not as vocal as the previous Barack Obama administration on the state of human rights and democracy in Turkey. 

“The United States remains seriously concerned about the widespread arrest and pretrial detention that’s taking place of individuals in Turkey who have been critical of that government. You mentioned the trial of 17 newspaper reporters. I know you are very familiar with this case, and many of us here have followed those cases as well,” Nauert said. 

The spokeswoman said she spoke with U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass over the ongoing Cumhuriyet trials, saying, “He tells me that our embassy personnel have joined colleagues from other missions to observe some of those trial proceedings.”

“He’s gone there [to Cumhuriyet], and that really shows our level of concern, the fact that he has gone there to express his support for journalists there, his support for our belief in freedom of expression, including freedom of expression that other governments and other individuals might find uncomfortable. So he continues to underscore our support for free, independent media, important work that they do in democratic societies. If I have anything more on you – on that for you, I will certainly bring it to you, but we are following the cases of those individuals,” she added.