Posted by SlavEU | Европа, новости

A Turkish court in Diyarbakir decided on Wednesday to release 14 Kurdish journalists on bail after detaining them for 13 months awaiting trial.

The journalists were initially detained on June 8, 2022, without knowing the charges against them. The indictment was released in March 2023, charging 17 journalists with membership in a terrorist organization in reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Three of the journalists were released, pending trial.

The journalists worked for several pro-Kurdish media outlets, including the Mesopotamia News Agency, the PEL production company and the Dicle Firat Journalists Association.

The first hearing in their case began on Tuesday, 13 months since the detentions. Experts say prolonged judicial processes, such as pretrial detention and late indictments, are being used as a punishment and deterrent.

“The main purpose of this case is to cease our work [as reporters] and keep us away from the field,” Serdar Altan, one of the arrested journalists and co-chair of the Dicle Firat Journalists Association, said during the hearing.

“We have been arrested for 13 months. Who will be held accountable for restricting our freedom?” Altan added.

The journalists facing trial denied being members of a terrorist organization, and some defended themselves in court in Kurdish.

Resul Temur, one of the lawyers defending the journalists, told the court that at least 30 Kurdish journalists had been arrested in the last 12 months.

“This data alone shows what kind of judicial harassment journalists face,” Temur said.

Temur demanded the journalists’ release, asking the court to consider the length of their pretrial detention.

Veysel Ok, co-director of an Istanbul-based Media and Law Studies Association and a human rights lawyer, argued in court that the case questioned the journalists’ profession by asking about their news sources.

“As we cannot question your judgeship, you cannot question journalism. All journalists here are journalists who do rights journalism and are the voice of the Kurds and the oppressed,” Ok said during his court argument.

The prosecutor asked for continuation of the detention, citing “the nature of charges and evidence showing a strong suspicion of committing the crime.”

The court panel did not accept the prosecutor’s request and released the journalists on bail. The hearing was adjourned until November 9.

“Their release does not mean that they are acquitted. The trial will continue. There are other witnesses to listen,” Ok told VOA.

“In fact, there should have been an acquittal after these defenses. But since there is no legal security in Turkey, we cannot make such predictions for the future,” he added.

Temur said the court’s decision to release the journalists is promising for other press freedom cases.

“This decision made us hope that the court panel had a judgment or thought that the evidence in the indictment was within the scope of journalistic activity,” Temur said.

Turkey has one of the worst records for jailing journalists.

According to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 40 were detained in connection with their work as of December 2022. Of those, 15 are facing anti-state charges, and the rest have not had charges released, the data shows.

This story originated in VOA’s Turkish Service.

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