US vows to keep following journalists’ trial despite outrage from Ankara

US vows to keep following journalists’ trial despite outrage from Ankara

US vows to keep following journalists’ trial despite outrage from Ankara

DHA photo

U.S. representatives will continue to monitor judicial proceedings like the controversial trial of daily Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül despite harsh criticisms from Ankara, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby has said.

Kirby said it was “completely in keeping with standard diplomatic practice” for U.S. representatives to attend the trial on March 25 in order to report on developments in their host country. 

“This was not the first time, but it darn sure won’t be the last time that we observer these kinds of judicial proceedings,” he told reporters in a daily press briefing on March 28. 

Kirby also criticized the court’s decision to grant a request from the prosecution for the trial to be held behind closed doors due to “national security” concerns, describing the decision as “regrettable.”

“We regret that this case is now being tried in private without the public or media or diplomatic access,” he said, reiterating previous calls upon Turkey to abide by “the fundamental principles of democracy, including due process, judicial independence, and freedom of expression” enshrined in its constitution. 

The Italian Foreign Ministry also released an official statement regarding its diplomats’ visit to the trial after Turkey sent a diplomatic note to the related country representatives. It stressed that the Italian Consul General in Istanbul acted in line with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations when attending the hearing. 

“The Italian Consul General in Istanbul, Federica Ferrari Bravo, behaved in full compliance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations,” the ministry’s statement said.

“Freedom of expression is of fundamental importance for the country’s political debate, in which the interest of European diplomats is fully justified in the light of Turkey’s position as a European Union accession country,” read the statement issued by the Italian Foreign Ministry on March 28. 

Turkey has harshly criticized foreign diplomats who attended the first hearing in the trial of Dündar and Gül, saying it amounted to an intervention in the country’s domestic affairs.

Foreign Ministry officials claimed the sharing on social media of photos at the trial by some diplomatic and consular representatives amounted to an intervention in an ongoing independent judicial process and is incompatible with the principle of impartiality. They said Turkey’s disturbance over the issue had been sent to the related country representatives, Reuters reported.

Leading political figures including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ have all recently slammed the foreign diplomats in attendance.
Kalın on March 28 criticized the consuls general, urging them to refrain from projecting an image of intervening in domestic affairs or the judicial process.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also lashed out at foreign diplomats for “interfering” with the legal processes.

“Making verbal or written statements to create an illegal influence on person who conducts their judicial duty or who implements order in order to make him/her give a decision against the law is a crime,” the Justice Minister said. 

On March 26, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had also severely criticized the aforementioned diplomats. 

“Yesterday [March 25] there was a hearing of a known journalist. The situation of those who attended this hearing is very important. The consuls general in Istanbul come to the courthouse. Who are you, what are you doing there?” Erdoğan said.

Dündar and Gül, who were released pending trial on Feb. 26 after a decision by the Constitutional Court, are charged with espionage and threatening state security in stories published in Cumhuriyet about National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks allegedly transporting weapons to rebel groups in Syria.