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Turkish journalists accused of supporting alleged coup plot still in jail

UPDATE: In Turkey, Odatv publisher conditionally released (CPJ, 28 December 2012)

(IFJ/IFEX) - 16 November 2012 - The two Turkish journalists who are appearing before the Istanbul Özel Yetkili 16th Specialized Heavy Penal Court in the Oda TV case today on charges of perverting the course of justice have no case to answer and should be released immediately, according to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).

The Oda TV case involves the website's owner Soner Yalçin and reporter Yalçin Küçük, who remain in jail after eight other journalists facing similar charges were released.

Oda TV journalists Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu were released in September and, earlier in March Çoskun Musluk and Sait Çakir, both working for the same media organisation were also bailed, pending trial. The other journalists involved in this case are Müyesser Yildiz, Ahmet Mumtaz Idil, Iklim Ayfer Kaleli and Dogan Yurdakul.

"Of the initial 10 journalists in custody, two remain in prison for a 23rd month in a row," said Arne König, EFJ President. "We firmly
believe that the charges against them should be dropped and they should be released unconditionally and acquitted." The EFJ has sent Barry White, member of its Steering Committee, as observer to attend the trials.

The EFJ, together with the IFJ and almost 80 affiliates from all continents signed a petition for the journalists' release, which appeared in Turkish newspaper Milliyet.

"The massive response of journalists' organisations testifies to the strength of our campaign for our Turkish colleagues' freedom," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "We shall not rest until they are all free and the accusations against them dropped."

The Oda TV case is named after a news website headed by Soner Yalçin which is fiercely critical of the government, particularly its reaction to alleged plots to stage coups against current Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government.

Prosecutors claim that the website and 10 journalists currently on trial attempted to support the alleged "Ergenekon" plot by using their positions in the media to question the government's pursuit of the case, thereby undermining it. The prosecutors further allege that key documents seized from computers owned by the website and its employees show an "operational plan". They also rely on snippets of emails and wiretapped telephone conversations to support the allegations.

As part of its Stand-Up for Journalism day an EFJ delegation together with the partner of Soner Yalcin, Halide Kurt, met with a couple of members of the European Parliament including Jarosław Wałęsa, the chair of the ad hoc delegation for the observation of trials of journalists in Turkey and MEP Patrick Le Hyaric. They both expressed great concern for press freedom situation in Turkey. The weekend before, the EFJ French affiliates together with Halide Kurt had also had several meetings with politicians and human rights group in Paris.

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