Release of Turkish journalists internationally praised
ISTANBULThe release of two prominent Turkish journalists, who had been arrested and detained for months over a story on state-owned trucks allegedly carrying weapons to Syria, has been met with praise by the international community.
“I was glad to hear the judgment of the Turkish Constitutional Court today which found that the rights of [daily] Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, had been violated. I welcome their release,” Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a written statement on Feb. 26.
The statement came just hours after Dündar and Gül were released from a prison in western Istanbul, where they had been under arrest since Nov. 26, 2015, over a news story on Syria-bound trucks owned by Turkey’s state National Intelligence Organization (MİT) which were stopped by gendarmerie forces in southern Turkey in early 2014 and allegedly found to be transporting weapons.
Commenting on the Constitutional Court’s ruling issued just hours before the release of Dündar and Gül that suggested the arrest was a rights violation, Jagland said, “The judgment demonstrates the importance of an independent Constitutional Court in Turkey which bases its decisions on the European Convention on Human Rights.”
“I welcome the Constitutional Court’s ruling of yesterday, ending 3 months pre-trial detention for Can Dündar and Erdem Gül,” said British Ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore on Twitter on Feb. 26.
“Freedom of press and expression is a fundamental right forming the cornerstone of any functioning democracy,” he added.
The International Press Institute (IPI) also welcomed the ruling that said the pre-trial arrest of Dündar and Gül violated their “freedom of expression, freedom of the press and right to personal security and freedom.”
“We are extremely pleased that the justices of the Constitutional Court stood up today and demonstrated that democracy and respect for human rights are still fundamental values in Turkey,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said in a written statement late Feb. 25, minutes after the news of their release broke out on Turkish media.
“IPI and its members across the globe look forward to Mr. Dündar and Mr. Gül’s swift release, and we will continue to advocate on their behalf until this baseless case against them has been dismissed,” he added.
Turkey’s Press Council released an official statement, defining the Constitutional Court ruling a “historic turning point” which would establish a precedent.
“Arresting journalists for journalistic activity is a shame on democracies,” the council said, adding that the decision “enlivened hopes” in the Turkish judiciary.
The Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) also issued a statement on Dündar and Gül’s release, defining the decision as one that “lifts the heavy pressure” imposed upon journalists.