Dec 05 2018

Judge deems Turkish journalists "flight risk," rejects release

A judge in Istanbul has ruled that two Turkish journalists at the left-wing Etkin News Agency must remain in prison, where they have been held pending trial on terror charges since April.

Editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp were detained during early morning raids on April 13, and both have been charged with membership of an illegal organisation. Şahin has also been charged with making propaganda for an illegal organisation.

The judge at Istanbul’s 23rd Heavy Penal Court ruled that the pair posed a flight risk and denied their release on Wednesday, during the second hearing in their trial. The next hearing is scheduled for January 30, 2019.

Almost 45,000 of Turkey’s 260,000 prisoners are charged with terror-related crimes, the second largest group in Turkish prisons after those charged with narcotics crimes and a proportion well about the global average.

The Turkish government has said the failed coup attempt in July 2016 justified the high amount of arrests since then. However, critics have said new, vaguely defined laws against disseminating terrorist propaganda or “praising” terror-related crimes have been used to silence journalists and dissenting voices.

"We have been arrested for eight months. We are under arrest due to the news that we made and our political attitude,” Turkish news portal Bianet quoted Şahin as saying at the hearing.

“We are under arrest because of our social media posts. We are under arrest due to our profession. Journalism is not a crime. I request my release because we did our jobs and because we have been deprived of our freedom,” she added.

Referring to the indictment against the journalists, Özcan Karakoç, one of the lawyers representing the journalists, complained that prosecutors had taken incidents from as far back as 2014, a camera, and even his clients’ decision to use their right to remain silent after being arrested as evidence against them.