Top court points to open mistake in journalists’ arrest

Top court points to open mistake in journalists’ arrest

Top court points to open mistake in journalists’ arrest

Cumhuriyet daily's editor-in-chief Can Dündar (R) and Cumhuriyet daily's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül (L) talk to the press and employees after being released from jail on February 26, 2016 at the Cumhuriyet headquarters in Istanbul. AFP Photo

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has decided a local court which ruled for the arrests of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül had made an “apparent discretion mistake” concerning the ruling which put the two behind bars for over 90 days.

The statement came as the Constitutional Court completed its justification regarding its recent ruling which paved the way for the acquittal of daily Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Gül. Corrections were made and dissenting opinions were added to the justification, which was distributed to Supreme Council members on March 7, as it was due to be published in the Official Gazette.

Dündar and Gül were released pending trial on Feb. 26, following the Constitutional Court ruling that their 92-day arrest over terrorism charges had violated their rights.

Freedoms of press and expression were elaborated upon greatly in the justified decision, which reportedly quoted various European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings. 

“Freedom of expression also prevails for thoughts which hurt, shock or disturb the state or parts of society,” read part of the decision, which highlighted the elaboration of freedom of the press and expression should not be regarded as basal.  

The justification also responded to the criticism that “domestic legal avenues were not exhausted,” and added that in terms of arrest inquiries, domestic legal avenues had been exhausted after objections to the arrests were denied and finalized. The decision also said the justification of the court which ordered the arrest of the two journalists was insufficient.

Meanwhile, the three members of the Constitutional Court who had presented dissenting opinions to the decision emphasized “national security” and pointed to the limits of freedom of expression and national security and public order.

“The Constitutional Court’s ruling of a ‘violation of rights’ for a case that did not have a written indictment, nor has been identified as a crime yet, is a direct intervention to its trial court’s jurisdiction of discretion. Domestic legal avenues have not been exhausted and the outcome of the trial should have been awaited. With this decision, the Constitutional Court acted as a criminal court of peace, penal court of first instance and as the Supreme Council. The Constitutional Court acted as a criminal court of peace by extending the judicial jurisdiction of the Supreme Council to general punishment judgements. Using this right in individual appeals is against the constitution,” read the dissenting opinions.

Dündar and Gül had been arrested pending trial on Nov. 26, 2015, with charges of espionage, threatening state security and supporting an armed terrorist organization due to stories published in Cumhuriyet about Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks which were allegedly bringing weapons to unknown groups in Syria.