The trial of journalists from independent daily newspaper Cumhuriyet is set to conclude this week in Turkey in a four-day hearing from April 23 to 27 to be held at Silivri Prison, on the outskirts of Istanbul.
Prosecutors are demanding prison terms of up to 43 years on charges that the paper’s news reports and its criticism of government policy supported terrorist groups, including the movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen – whom Turkey’s government blames for the July 2016 coup attempt – as well as outlawed militant Kurdish and leftist groups.
However, the case focuses almost entirely on news reports and social media posts, and on innocuous or unavoidable contacts – and even attempts at contact to which the accused did not respond – with individuals who had a secretive app on their phones said to have been used by Gülen’s followers.
IPI and other international observers maintain that the case is politically motivated. They argue that it is intended to silence Cumhuriyet, one of the country’s few remaining opposition voices, and send a chilling message to others who might dare to publish news or criticism deemed unwelcome by the ruling political establishment headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Defendants imprisoned in the case have effectively faced punishment without conviction, having been held for months in pre-trial detention with arbitrary limits on outside contact and interference with their right to mount a legal defence.
With some 160 journalists behind bars, Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, the vast majority of whom were detained in a sweeping crackdown on dissent amid an ongoing state of emergency declared after the 2016 coup attempt.
The state of emergency, which has accelerated the government’s consolidation of control over almost every segment of society, has led to the dismissal or detention of over 100,000 civil servants, and the closure of some 170 media outlets and hundreds of civil society organisations by decree.
Key recent statemets:
IPI disappointed at extended pre-trial detention of Akın Atalay (March 16, 2018)
Two Turkish journalists released, but at a price (March 11, 2018)
IPI to monitor March 9 Cumhuriyet hearing in Turkey (March 8, 2018)