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Journalist in Oda TV trial released from prison

(IPI/IFEX) - ISTANBUL, June 19, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed the release of another journalist from prison in Turkey and urged the country to free the rest of the nearly 100 journalists it currently holds behind bars, the vast majority of whom have been convicted of no crime.

A court in Istanbul late yesterday afternoon ordered the release of Muyesser Yildiz – who had been imprisoned for 16 months – following the resumption of proceedings in the “Oda TV trial” after a three-month pause.

The case is named for a news website that has been fiercely critical of the government. Prosecutors say the website was at the centre of a purported effort to use the media to advance the alleged “Ergenekon” plot to use terrorism to sow chaos that would lead elements of the military and security services to stage a coup against Turkey's current Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government.

The head of IPI's Turkish National Committee, Milliyet columnist Kadri Gursel, said: “The release of Muyesser Ugur Yildiz yesterday following the latest hearing in the Oda TV case is a positive, but small, step. Positive, because she was kept most of the time during her 16 months in custody in conditions of isolation, despite her poor health. It's a small step, however, because there are other journalists who still remain in custody in the same case. This case, where the accused have effectively been questioned and put on trial for their journalistic activities, has put a dark stain on the reputation of the Turkish justice system, which has criminalized journalism.”

Yildiz was released from the Silivri prison outside Istanbul last night and joins five co-defendants in the case who are currently free pending trial. IPI World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Sener, along with journalists Ahmet Sik, Sait Cakir and Coskun Musluk, was released in March, while Dogan Yurdakul was freed in late February for health reasons. Four other journalists and authors in the case – Soner Yalcin, Yalcin Kucuk, Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu – remained behind bars yesterday.

The defendants were all taken into custody in early March 2011. Although their trial began in November, it has been punctuated by numerous delays. Observers said yesterday that no end appeared in sight given that a government agency still has not given the court its report on a key piece of evidence – an assessment requested some five months ago.

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