RADIO DANAN: Seven Turkish journalists of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have been released after nine months in jail as calls increase on authorities to also free four other staffers of the daily who remain behind bars on accusations of abetting terrorism.
A court in Istanbul said on Friday that the seven could walk free under judicial control. That means that charges of supporting terrorist groups, which the journalists have denied, still count and the suspects should report to authorities.
Among those freed on Saturday from Silviri jail on the outskirts of Istanbul was respected cartoonist Musa Kart, who said he had felt no hatred in the 271 days he spent behind bars.
“Believe me, during this period in jail we have felt no hatred, no rancour, we could not live with such thoughts,” Kart said, adding, “We were taken away from the people we love, our relatives, our work.”
Kart, one of the most famous journalists caught in a crackdown that Turkey launched following the failed coup of July 2016, urged authorities to release four other journalists of Cumhuriyet, saying that would boost Turkey’s reputation amid increasing international criticism about the country’s lack of tolerance for dissent.
“I thought I was going to be very happy to find out that I was going to be released but I can’t say that today. Unfortunately, four of our friends are still behind bars,” he said, adding, “The image of journalists in jail is not flattering for our country and I hope our four friends will come out as soon as possible.”
The four still in prison are Kadri Gursel, Ahmet Sik, Murat Sabuncu and Akin Atalay, all known for their anti-government commentaries and reports.
Cumhuriyet ran a front-page on Saturday, depicting the four. The daily commented under the headline “Deficient justice” that the release of the seven journalists proved that charges against them were fabricated.
“Our friends and their lawyers proved that the accusations are baseless and illegal… The world saw it, the court did not,” said the newspaper, which is one of the few voices in the media in Turkey that oppose the government.
The 11 journalists face charges of supporting in their coverage three terror entities, including an outlawed Kurdish militant party and a cleric residing in the United States whom the government blames for the coup last year. The charges could lead to jail terms of up to 43 years. The next hearing of the trial, which started earlier this week, will take place on September 11.