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ECHR found violation of freedom of expression of journalists and managers of Cumhuriyet daily

11.11.2020, 12:30
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey has violated the rights to liberty, security and freedom of expression of journalists and managers of the critical newspaper Cumhuriyet, who have been convicted of terrorism, as Europeyska Pravda reported.

Ten persons, journalists with the daily or managers of the Cumhuriyet Foundation (the principal shareholder of the company that publishes the newspaper) were detained back in 2016, after a failed coup, when the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a large-scale offensive against those suspected of disloyalty to the government. 

In November 2016, Mehmet Murat Sabuncu (born in 1969), Akın Atalay (born in 1963), Önder Çelik (born in 1956), Turhan Günay (born in 1946), Mustafa Kemal Güngör (born in 1959), Ahmet Kadri Gürsel (born in 1961), Hakan Karasinir (born in 1963), Hacı Musa Kart (born in 1954), Güray Tekin Öz (born in 1949), and Bülent Utku (born in 1955) were placed in pre-trial detention as responsible promoting and disseminating propaganda on behalf of terrorist organisations, notably the PKK/KCK (the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (an illegal armed organisation)/Kurdistan Communities Union) and an organisation referred to by the Turkish authorities as FETÖ/PDY (Fethullahist Terror Organisation/Parallel State Structure).

13 Cumhuriyet representatives were tried in 2018, the trial gained notoriety as an example of an crackdown on freedom of speech. Only three defendants were acquitted. 

The ECHR ruled that the arrest of the journalists was not sufficiently substantiated and did not see any reasonable evidence of their involvement in the terrorist organization's propaganda. “The Court also observed that it had already found that the applicants’ detention had not been based on reasonable suspicion that they had committed an offence, and that there had therefore been a violation of their right to liberty and security(…) The Court considered that the applicants’ pre-trial detention in the context of the criminal proceedings against them, for offences carrying a heavy penalty and directly linked to their work as journalists, had amounted to an actual and effective constraint and constituted “interference” with the exercise of their right to freedom of expression”.

According to the decision, Turkey must pay the convicts compensation in the amount of 16 thousand euros - to the executive director, editor-in-chief and journalists. 

Ankara has three months to appeal the court's decision. 

It will be recalled that on July 15, 2016, a group of officers attempted a coup d'etat to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. About 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured.

Turkey has accused a Muslim preacher, Faitullah Gulen, of plotting a coup and has launched mass arrests of people allegedly linked to him.

About 130,000 people have been fired for alleged links to Gulen.

Gulen, who has lived in voluntary exile in the United States since 1999, denies involvement in the coup attempt.

He was once an ally of Erdogan and helped the Turkish president's religious conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) come to power. But after that the allies parted.

In May 2016, the Gulen movement was declared a terrorist organization in Turkey.

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