Turkish court orders release of journalists Ahmet Şık, Murat Sabuncu

Turkish court orders release of journalists Ahmet Şık, Murat Sabuncu

Turkish court orders release of journalists Ahmet Şık, Murat Sabuncu

An Istanbul court on March 9 has ordered the release of investgative journalist Ahmet Şık and editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu in the Cumhuriyet case.

The daily's chairman, Akın Atalay, however, was remanded in custody until the next hearing, scheduled for March 16.

Speaking after his release, Sabuncu said their release was not a reason to be happy, since several journalists remained in prison.

"We should not be happy that we have been released because our release does not mean things have changed in Turkey regarding freedom of speech," Sabuncu told reporters.

Şık reiterated Sabuncu's comments, saying he would rather see anger than happiness.

"I am not happy in any way. I don't want you to be happy while Akın Atalay is still inside. I would prefer if you were angry, for anger will keep us standing," Şık said.

"Today is not a day for us to be happy, but there will come a day when we will be happy in this country," he added.

The three were the last remaining suspects in the case to be held behind bars ahead of a final verdict, leaving Atalay the sole suspect still behind bars.

A total of 17 staff from Cumhuriyet ("Republic" in Turkish) face terror charges in the trial, which opened on July 24. Others have been gradually freed over the last year. It is still not clear when the final verdict will be announced.

The terror-related charges are put as supporting three outlawed groups through their media coverage, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

The verdict delivered the courthouse in Silivri outside Istanbul, part of a complex that also contains the prison where they are held, was greeted with cheers from supporters in the courtroom. Şık could be seen weeping with emotion, Agence France-Presse reported.

Also present were the defendants who were released last year after long stints in jail but remain charged, including cartoonist Musa Kart and columnist Kadri Gürsel.

Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that the ruling was "long overdue" and called for the release of all jailed journalists in Turkey.

Before the trial

Before the sixth hearing of the case started, a group that included the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Utku Çakırözer, and Kani Beko, who is the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) chair, wanted to issue a press statement outside the courthouse. However, the gendarmerie prevented them, basing their decision on a prohibition of open-air press conferences in Istanbul.

“We are here for the Cumhuriyet case, for press freedom and justice. This is fascism. We will oppose theses kinds of acts in every situation. They are illegal. Our friends have been in prison for more than 500 days,” the CHP deputy Tanrıkulu said.

MIT trucks case takes a turn

In a separate development, Turkey’s top appeals court, also on March 9, quashed the verdict of Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief Can Dündar who was sentenced to five years and 10 months in jail on charges of revealing state secrets in 2016. 

It ruled he should face an even more serious charge of espionage in a new trial and risk a longer prison term of up to 20 years.

Dündar has fled Turkey and is now based in Germany.

Turkey was ranked as the country where the most journalists are imprisoned in the world for a second consecutive year, followed by China and Egypt, according to the latest annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released on Dec. 13, 2017.

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