Turkey news­pa­per staff walks free af­ter 9 months in prison

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Seven staff from the Turk­ish op­po­si­tion news­pa­per Cumhuriyet walked free yes­ter­day af­ter nine months in jail, ex­press­ing hope that four col­leagues still be­hind bars would be re­leased soon. An Is­tan­bul court had Fri­day or­dered that the seven be re­leased un­der ju­di­cial con­trol, mean­ing they re­main charged and will have to re­port to the au­thor­i­ties.

The staff from the news­pa­per, one of the few voices in the me­dia in Turkey to op­pose Er­do­gan, had been on trial for aid­ing ter­ror groups, in ac­cu­sa­tions de­nounced as ab­surd by sup­port­ers. But the trial, which started ear­lier this week, is a test for press free­dom un­der the rule of Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and the most prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists from the news­pa­per re­main in jail. The seven freed, in­clud­ing re­spected car­toon­ist Musa Kart, left Sil­viri jail on the out­skirts of Is­tan­bul to cheers and em­braces from sup­port­ers in the early hours of yes­ter­day. “We were taken away from the peo­ple we love, our rel­a­tives, our work,” said Kart af­ter his re­lease.

‘No ha­tred’

But he added: “Be­lieve me, dur­ing this pe­riod in jail we have felt no ha­tred, no ran­cor, we could not live with such thoughts.” The oth­ers re­leased in­clude books sup­ple­ment edi­tor Turhan Gu­nay as well as the pa­per’s le­gal ex­ec­u­tives. They had been held for 271 days.

The four re­main­ing in cus­tody are the com­men­ta­tor Kadri Gursel, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Ah­met Sik, the pa­per’s edi­tor-in- chief Mu­rat Sabuncu and chief ex­ec­u­tive Akin Ata­lay. Kart said: “I thought I was go­ing to be very happy to find out that I was go­ing to be re­leased but I can’t say that to­day. Un­for­tu­nately, four of our friends are still be­hind bars.

“The im­age of jour­nal­ists in jail is not flat­ter­ing for our coun­try and I hope our four friends will come out as soon as pos­si­ble.” The Car­toon­ists Rights Net­work In­ter­na­tional (CRNI), which has pushed for Kart’s re­lease, said the news was “bet­ter than could have been ex­pected” but added there was “lit­tle com­fort” for the fam­i­lies of those re­turn­ing to jail.

“De­fi­cient jus­tice,” head­lined Cumhuriyet, above the pic­tures of the four staff still in prison. “Our friends and their lawyers proved that the ac­cu­sa­tions are base­less and il­le­gal... The world saw it, the court did not,” it added. The staff are charged with sup­port­ing in their cov­er­age three en­ti­ties that Turkey con­sid­ers ter­ror groups-the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK), the ul­tra-left Revo­lu­tion­ary Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the move­ment of Fethul­lah Gulen, the USbased preacher who Ankara ac­cuses of or­der­ing last year’s coup at­tempt.

The next hear­ing is set for Septem­ber 11. If con­victed, they face vary­ing terms of up to 43 years in jail. Pros­e­cu­tors mean­while said they would file new ac­cu­sa­tions against Sik over an in­cen­di­ary de­fense state­ment he made on Wed­nes­day where he slammed Turkey’s rul­ing party over its past co­op­er­a­tion with the Gulen move­ment. —AFP

IS­TAN­BUL: Turk­ish car­toon­ist Musa Kart of the Cumhuriyet news­pa­per ges­tures af­ter be­ing freed from Silivri prison on July 28, 2017 fol­low­ing a Turk­ish court or­der to free the seven de­fen­dants in the trial of the Cumhuriyet news­pa­per staff. —AFP

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