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Journalists Mustafa Balbay and Neriman Aydin arrested in connection with case about overthrowing the government

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Ankara bureau chief of "Cumhuriyet Daily", Mustafa Balbay, and online "Toplumsal Haber" columnist, Nerima Aydin, were taken under custody for a second time in relation to the Ergenekon case, involving accusations of overthrowing the government. Both were sent to Metris prison. Turkey's Society of Journalists (TGC), Contemporary Journalists' Association (ÇGD) and Turkey's Union of Journalists (TGS) expressed concern over government pressure on the media.Journalists' organizations condemned the arrests and expressed concern regarding the lawfulness of the ongoing investigation.

Balbay and Aydin had been taken into custody on 1 July 2008 and were released following the prosecution's interrogation. Nonetheless, the indictment of the prosecution is yet to be revealed. It's not known what prompted the recent arrests. If the accusations turn into a case, both journalists would be tried with life sentences.

TGC chair Orhan Erinç expressed his concern regarding the arrests but declined to comment on the court ruling.

Criticizing the lengthy investigation process, Erinç argued in a written statement: "This renders the judiciary ineffective and brings questions about political influences. We urge for the case to begin as soon as possible."

Balbay's "Cumhuriyet" is highly critical of the current AKP government's Islamist background. His colleague Hikmet Çetinkaya also condemned the arrests in a commentary appearing on a television channel, saying: "What happened in eight months to cause these arrests? We don't know if there is new evidence or not. There are paper clippings in Balbay's house. He is a Kemalist and Republican. If that constitutes a crime, I wouldn't know."

ÇGD chair Ahmet Abakay stated that when the PM's recent comments pressuring the media are followed with these arrests, one should be concerned about freedoms. "Balbay was interrogated before. It's expected that the court and the prosecution should have gathered all relevant information. Of course, the judiciary is independent but one can't withhold from thinking if this is a warning to the opposition," said Abakay.

"Our colleagues have been linked to gangs which they have no relation to whatsoever" added TGS chair Ercan Ipekçi. "This is a form of suppression."

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