Dozens of Turkish bar associations call to end imprisonment of journalists

A total of 73 Turkish Bar Associations have issued a call to the country’s Supreme Court to end the imprisonment of journalists with opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, independent news site T24 reported on Tuesday.

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations President Metin Feyzioğlu is among the signatories of the petition, which only six bar associations in the country refrained from signing, it said.

A total of 15 staff of Cumhuriyet were handed out long prison sentences last year in April in the Cumhuriyet trials, during which the prosecutors claimed 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.

The bar associations’ petition said the case against Cumhuriyet was symbolic for press freedom, and urged the Supreme Court to effectively end the imprisonment of journalists’ prison sentences.

Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office said that the prison sentences should be overturned and the newspaper administrators should be acquitted.

Due to a nuance in the law, some defendants who were issued shorter sentences are currently in prison, as their right to an appeal falls under a different category than others with longer sentences who already started their appeal process and thus won’t go to prison unless their sentences are approved.

Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül mentioned the Cumhuriyet case in a speech on the Judicial Reform Strategy Document, and said the reform package would resolve the conflict between defendants. The reforms were to pass parliament before it closed, however, the procedure was not completed in time.

Journalists Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and accountant Emre İper have been in prison for 102 days in connection with the Cumhuriyet case.