Court dismisses appeal for release of Cumhuriyet journalists

Court dismisses appeal for release of Cumhuriyet journalists

Court dismisses appeal for release of Cumhuriyet journalists

People hold the Cumhuriyet Daily newspaper in front of the media headquarters, on November 27, 2015 in Istanbul, during a demonstration after the arrest of their Editor in Chief. AFP Photo

A Turkish court has dismissed an objection to the arrest of Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül that was filed by the journalists’ lawyers on Nov. 30, amid appeals launched by local and international press organizations for the release of the two.

Dündar and Gül’s lawyers filed an objection to the arrest decision on Nov. 30, stressing it constituted a violation of Turkey’s constitution and principles of human rights.

“We are fulfilling our duty and objecting to the ruling that is in violation of Turkey’s constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. The rest is up to you. The decision and the responsibility lie with you,” read the three-sentence objection. 

On Nov. 29, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also commented on the arrests en route to Brussels for the EU-Turkey Summit, saying they were “unnecessary.”

“I believe it is right to order a release pending trial, apart from in exceptional cases,” he said, while stressing that revealing state secrets “is a crime everywhere in the world.”

Dündar and Gül were arrested on charges of collecting and revealing secret documents for espionage and supporting an armed terrorist organization. The accusations were based on reports in Cumhuriyet regarding Syria-bound trucks sent by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and halted for inspection by police in January 2014.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), meanwhile, launched an international appeal for the release of arrested Dündar and Gül, as well as many other reporters who remain detained in Turkey.

The signatories of the petition, drafted in cooperation with the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), accused the Turkish authorities of “persecuting journalists of all colors in an increasingly ferocious manner” and called for the immediate release of Dündar and Gül and many other journalists.

“First as prime minister and now as president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been waging a methodical crackdown on the media in Turkey for years. Erdoğan is persecuting journalists of all colors in an increasingly ferocious manner in the name of combatting terrorism and defending state security. The Erdoğan regime’s arrests, threats and intimidation are unworthy of a democracy,” the appeal states.

“We appeal to the Turkish authorities to free Can Dündar and Erdem Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists who are currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed,” it concluded.

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Delorie urged a restoration of the “conditions of pluralism” in Turkey, during a Dec. 1 press conference in Istanbul. 

“The judicial system seems to prosecute journalists more often than the accomplices of Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant]. Turkey is a great country, with democratic institutions and a very open civil society. We appeal to the government, as a matter of honor, to restore all the conditions of pluralism, starting with freedom for journalists,” Delorie said.

Meanwhile, TGC head Turgay Olcayto emphasized solidarity, saying the problems of the Turkish media could become the problems of Western journalists in the future.

“With globalization, the Turkish media’s problems could one day become the problems of Western journalists. It is vital that we join forces to defend free journalism before it is too late,” Olcayto said.

Among the initial signatories of the petition are U.S. linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, Turkish pianist Fazıl Say, German politician Cem Özdemir, and French economist Thomas Piketty.

The ruling came amid an investigation recently launched into the tax accounts of daily Cumhuriyet.

“They informed us that they will once again inspect Cumhuriyet newspaper’s 2010 accounts, 2-1/2 years after fully inspecting them before,” the newspaper’s chief executive Akın Atalay wrote on Twitter on Nov. 30.