Journalists freed after 375 days behind bars

Journalists freed after 375 days behind bars

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Journalists freed after 375 days behind bars

Friends and supporters of Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener frequently protested their arrest. DHA photo

Journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are free after 375 days in prison after an Istanbul court ordered their release in the ongoing OdaTV case late yesterday.

Şık and Şener, as well as columnists Sait Çakır and Coşkun Musluk, were released late yesterday. Şener and Şık were arrested in March 2011 on accusations that they had connections with Ergenekon, a network alleged to have plotted political chaos to pave the way for a coup. The two journalists were charged with aiding and abetting the alleged Ergenekon terrorist group.

Nine more suspects in the case remain behind bars.

During yesterday’s hearing, both journalists testified before the court, saying they had only been pursuing pure journalism.

Friends, family and supporters of the two gathered to celebrate in front of the Çağlayan courthouse following the decision. “We are extremely happy with the decision. However, we shouldn’t forget the other journalists currently behind bars. There are more than 100 journalists still in jail in Turkey,” journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu said.

Akın Atalay, a lawyer for Ahmet Şık, said the decision to arrest his client was meaningless and that the court’s decision was a good sign for the future of the freedom of thought in Turkey.

The case has sparked international concern about freedom of expression in Turkey. The suspects faced a possible 15-year prison term, but the case faced strong criticism on several occasions from the European Union and Reporters Without Borders.

Meanwhile, the two other released suspects, Coşkun Musluk and Sait Çakır, had recently been placed in isolation cells next to those of columnist and Republican People’s Party deputy Mustafa Balbay and journalist Tuncay Özkan, respectively.

Both Balbay and Özkan have also been in prison on charges of participating in an alleged plot to overthrow the government and were kept in isolated cells for one year. The next hearing in the OdaTV case is scheduled for June 18.