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Delegation of free expression organisations witnesses political trial

Photographs of some of the 64 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey were placed on the ground outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul
Photographs of some of the 64 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey were placed on the ground outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul

Pavol Múdry/IPI

As the trial began for 10 journalists accused of an anti-government conspiracy, free expression organisations visited Turkey to witness the case and investigate the deteriorating state of press freedom, which has led to a total of 64 imprisoned journalists, say IFEX members.

A mission including representatives from the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the European Federation of Journalists, the Journalists' Union of Turkey and the German Deutscher Journalisten Verband participated in a demonstration outside the packed, tiny courtroom for 10 Oda TV journalists.

The reporters are accused of being part of the media wing of the "Ergenekon" plot, in which secularists were allegedly planning terrorist acts in order to overthrow the current government, according to IPI. The Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR) in Turkey adds that the 22 November hearing was the first in nearly nine months since the initial proceeding.

One of the journalists, Nedim Sener, was named an IPI World Press freedom hero, while another, Ahmet Sik, appears to be charged based on the manuscript of his book, called "The Imam's Army," says RSF. The other journalists are Oda TV website owner Soner Yalcin, news editor Baris Terkoglu, managing editor Baris Pehlivan, news coordinator Dogan Yurdakul and reporters Muyesser Yildiz, Coskun Musluk, Sait Cakir and Yalcin Kucuk. Most have been held for months, despite the dearth of evidence against them, says RSF.

The journalists' lawyers demanded that one of three judges step down due to a clear evidence of bias and said the case is about political power and not justice. A higher court will rule on the recusal of presiding judge, Resul Cakir, for alleged bias on 26 December. According to IPI, Cakir has personally sued defendant Baris Terkoglu, for a photo showing the judge dining with other judges, prosecutors and police officers and suggesting impartiality.

The mission coalition drew attention to the fact that Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in Europe. It called for the release of the detained journalists and demanded legislative change so that journalists are not unfairly swept up under the net of anti-terror law.

IPI has additionally circulated a petition calling for the release of Sener, who has already spent more than eight months in prison, and seems to be being punished because he accused law enforcement authorities of involvement in the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink.

Sign the petition here
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