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Turkish journalists free after 92 days spent in prison: “I’m upset by the fact that two journalists were used as pawns in this complex political game.”

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The Turkish constitutional court brought a ruling on 25 February this year that the rights of Cumhuriyet newspaper journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have been violated and it underlined the lack of justification to their imprisonment, referring to Article 19 (“right to personal liberty and security”), Article 26 (freedom of expression) and Article 28 (press freedom) of Turkey’s Constitution, reported EFJ. By this decision of the court, the two journalists were released on the same day around 3 am after having spent 92 days in Istanbul’s Silivri prison.

To recall, editor in chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar, and correspondent from Ankara, Erdem Gül, published in May of last year a video and photographs which show trucks of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in the process of transferring weapons for the Islamic group in Syria. Due to the disclosure of that information they were arrested on 26 November, 2015 under the accusation of espionage and publishing confidential documents and were facing a sentence of life imprisonment.

For Fairpress, journalist and news editor of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, Deniz Ülkütekin, reflected on the freeing/liberation of his colleagues saying that such a decision surprised many people:

It was a great surprise to hear that both Dündar and Gül were released from prison, because only a few people were hopeful for a positive decision of the Supreme Court as it is believed that Mr Erdoğan has all the power over the judicature in Turkey. It was also a surprise for Mr. Erdoğan as he was celebrating his birthday, as Can Dündar emphasized at his first statement after his release: “We gave a good gift to Erdoğan.” But I want to refer on his other statement. Dündar said that “We see that there are still some real judges in Ankara, who believe in the supremacy of law.” Is that really so? I don’t think so. If want to understand the reasons of this decision, we should have a look at another figure in this war between Erdoğan and Dündar and Gül. His name is Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s former Prime Minister, before Erdoğan, and one of the leading founders of AKP. This man is currently not an active politician, but he was once the

strongest ally of Erdoğan. But that partnership ended after Erdoğan started a fight against the religious organisation Fethullah Gulen, with which Gul had good connections with. Although Erdoğan has power over the judicature, the members of the Supreme Court were selected during the Abdullah Gul era and they are reportedly Gul’s men and not Erdoğan’s.

Ülkütekin expressed his satisfaction with such a decision, but with a dose of scepticism regarding the motives behind it:

In conclusion I want to say that though I am glad to see Dündar and Gül released, I cannot say that this is a victory of press freedom, judicature etc. It was just another card that was played in Turkish politics. I also want to say that I am upset about the fact that the two journalists were used as pawns in this complex political game, not only by Gul, but also by Erdoğan during his talks about money with EU representatives.

The European and International Federation of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) welcomed the release of the journalists and called for the dismissal of all charges against them and for the release of the other 30 journalists who are in jail in Turkey.

We received a comment from the president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Morgens Blicher Bjerregaard:

At last some good news from Turkey! This ruling shows the importance of having an independent judicial system which can reaffirm basic fundamental freedoms like press freedom or freedom of expression. Those principles are challenged daily in Turkey’s authoritarian politics. We are very happy for Can Dündar and Erdem, we don’t forget the remaining 30 journalists still waiting behind bars and we will continue the struggle until all the charges have been dropped.

Connected articles: Turkish prosecutor demanded life imprisonment for two journalists. Diaz-Jogeix: The charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül are outrageous. The prosecution of these journalists is clearly politically motivated.; Award to Cumhuriyet for the story for which journalists were arrested: We were just doing our journalistic job, nothing else, this is the proof.Ülkütekin on the arrest of his colleagues: “Erdoğan turned into a nationalist personality to whom journalists are the biggest obstacle.”

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