May 29 2019

Turkish journalist Kadri Gürsel released from jail

Kadri Gürsel, a prominent journalist critical of the government, was released on probation a few hours after he was sent back to prison by a Turkish court on Wednesday, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

A Turkish court earlier on Wednesday had ordered Gürsel to sent back to prison after upholding his sentence for aiding terrorist groups, his lawyer said.

The veteran journalist had turned himself in earlier that day to serve out his 30-month prison sentence for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terror group without being a member.”

Gürsel is one of the 15 staff of the Cumhuriyet newspaper who were handed long prison sentences in April last year. Prosecutors said the newspaper aided the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, and the Gülen movement, followers of an Islamist preacher accused of plotting the failed July 2016 coup attempt. 

Gürsel was sentenced to two and half years in prison, but released by order of an Istanbul court pending his appeal after serving 11 months in prison between 2016 and 2017.

The veteran journalist had written that he had been sent back to jail on Instagram, but his lawyer had said they did not yet know the length of detention.

"After everything is taken into consideration including the constitutional court's decision, Kadri Gursel must be released immediately," AFP quoted Gürsel’s lawyer as saying earlier on Wednesday.  

Gürsel has been a journalist and columnist for three decades and has written for prominent newspapers such as Milliyet, in addition to working for AFP.

Turkey was placed 157th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index ranking in 2018 by Reporters Without Borders and remains the "world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists", according to the same report.