Parole bill blocks release of journalists arrested for Libya report

Turkey's parliament approved a clause of a prison reform bill that excludes intelligence-related crimes, blocking the release of six journalists arrested for covering the funeral of a high-ranking Turkish intelligence officer who died in Libya, Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Monday.

A prison reform bill proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) aims to relax sentencing and see nearly a third of Turkey’s prisoners released on parole or to house arrest, in a bid to counter the coronavirus outbreak

The legal amendments would see the release of significant numbers of inmates, excluding those awaiting trial or found guilty of terrorism, thus keeping in jail journalists, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and dismissed public officials jailed for links to what Turkey calls terrorist organisations.

With the approval of the bill’s clause on Saturday that excludes the violation of Turkey's intelligence law, the release of six journalists incarcerated for exposing the identity of the agent was blocked, Cumhuriyet said.

Editor-in-chief for news outlet OdaTV, Barış Pehlivan, a columnist for Yeniçağ newspaper, Murat Ağırel, the managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, Ferhat Çelik, and its editor-in-chief, Aydın Keser, were arrested on March 8 for reporting on the funeral of a Turkish intelligence agent killed in Libya.