Euro court seeks Turkey’s defense in jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists’ case

Euro court seeks Turkey’s defense in jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists’ case

Euro court seeks Turkey’s defense in jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists’ case

AFP photo

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has demanded Turkey’s defense in the cases against jailed daily Cumhuriyet journalists, inviting the country to submit a written defense by Oct. 2. 

The ECHR agreed to give priority to the cases of arrested Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, asking Turkey to provide the reasons for jailing them. 

The Strasbourg-based court made an amendment to its bylaw on May 31 regarding the sorting of cases that will be processed after journalists in a number of European countries applied to the court in recent years with complaints on press freedom. 

Following the latest amendment, the ECHR was expected to prioritize proceedings for applications filed by Turkish journalists in recent months and demand the government’s defense.

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu and nine others from the daily were arrested last year on several charges, including “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.” They have been jailed ever since. 

In its statement, the court said the journalists challenged the relevant detention orders before judges of the peace and applied, unsuccessfully, for release. They also lodged individual petitions before the Constitutional Court; those proceedings are currently pending.

Moreover, the court also gave details about the Cumhuriyet staff’s application that was made on March 2, saying it was made based on the right to liberty and security, right to a speedy review of the lawfulness of the detention, freedom of expression and limitations on the use of restrictions on rights. 

According to the ECHR, the journalists and executives complained about their pre-trial detention and its duration, and also claimed that there had been a breach of their freedom of expression.

They further alleged that their detention was a sanction against them for criticizing the government and amounted to politically motivated judicial harassment.

In addition to Sabuncu, the application was made by Cumhuriyet writers and executives Akın Atalay, Önder Çelik, Turhan Günay, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Kadri Gürsel, Hakan Karasinir, Musa Kart, Güray Tekin Öz and Bülent Utku. 

Last month, imprisoned Cumhuriyet journalist Ahmet Şık also applied to the court demanding his immediate release, citing a court ruling from three years ago stating that his rights had been violated.

Şık and journalist Nedim Şener were jailed as part of the controversial Oda TV case in 2011. Both spent more than a year in prison while awaiting trial before the publication of Şık’s 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 movement and the government were close. The duo was eventually freed on March 12, 2012.

Şık was again arrested on Dec. 30, 2016, over several tweets and articles for Cumhuriyet and accused of “helping and being a member of terrorist groups.”