ECHR turns down Turkey’s bids for more time over jailed journalists

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has begun rejecting Turkish Justice Ministry requests for extra time to defend itself against charges of rights abuses in the cases of jailed journalists.

The Turkish state is obliged to provide its justifications for the alleged abuses to the court so that the next 11 pending trials can go ahead, according to Cumhuriyet newspaper, but instead the ministry has kept filing for extensions.

“The government cannot defend itself at the ECHR,” the Cumhuriyet headline said. The newspaper’s Ankara correspondent Erdem Gül, himself detained for 92 days between 2015 and 2016, responded by tweeting, “but our colleagues have been in prison for 375 days”.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey currently has 81 journalists in jail, more than any other country.

The court also announced that it was granting a final extension for the ministry to defend its continued detention of German-Turkish Die Welt journalist Deniz Yücel.

While rejecting Justice Ministry requests for more time in the case of jailed writer and journalist Ahmet Şık, it granted a request for more time from Şık’s lawyers.

Şık was arrested on charges of “making propaganda for the PKK and FETÖ terrorist organisations” in December 2016.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been fighting a separatist campaign in Turkey for more than 30 years. FETÖ is the Turkish government’s epithet for the Gülen movement, former government allies accused of having carried out last year’s failed coup.

After five years, Şık was found innocent on Wednesday on charges of producing propaganda for a secular anti-government conspiracy. The judges and prosecutors who brought the charges against him are now themselves being tried on terrorism charges for links to Gülen.

Şık has already been awarded compensation from the Turkish state by a unanimous vote at the ECHR for wrongful imprisonment and rights violations relating to the latter case.