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European court slams Turkey on pre-trial detention of journalists

Journalists Nedim Sener (C) and Ahmet Sik (facing camera, 3rd L) wave upon arrival at a courthouse in Istanbul, 5 March 2011
Journalists Nedim Sener (C) and Ahmet Sik (facing camera, 3rd L) wave upon arrival at a courthouse in Istanbul, 5 March 2011

REUTERS/Ozan Guzelce/Milliyet/Handout

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today [8 July 2014] has welcomed the European Court of Human Rights' (ECHR) preliminary decision over the detention of two investigative journalists by the Turkish authorities without prior trial for over a year. The Court says the preliminary findings show that there is a breach of human rights.

The case concerned the pre-trial detention of investigative journalists, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Şık, who were accused of aiding and abetting the alleged criminal organisation "Ergenekon". Sener and Şık were detained without trial since 3 March 2011 on the above alleged charges for more than one year. They were released on 12 March 2012.

The Court held that the Turkish authorities had kept the two journalists in pre-trial detention for reasons that were neither “relevant” nor “sufficient” to justify its length, which exceeded one year. It considered that neither the journalists nor their lawyers had had an opportunity to challenge in a satisfactory manner the reasons given to justify that detention.

Closely following this specific press trial, the EFJ was particularly concerned that during their arbitrary detention, the journalists were unable to contest the lawfulness of their detention as they were not informed of the evidence against them due to the authorities' refusal to allow them to consult the case file for reasons of confidentiality.

Although the EFJ has welcomed the decision, it has warned several times that the common practice of pre-trial detention in Turkey has stifled press freedom in the country leading to self-censorship among journalists and media organisations.

Nedim Sener is an investigative journalist whose work has focused mainly on the abuse of power by politicians and businessmen, revealing links of certain members of the security forces with Mafia and terrorist organisations, offences committed by the intelligence services and the influence of religious circles on the police.

Ahmet Şık is an experienced freelance journalist who has worked for a number of newspapers (Radikal, Birgün) and a member of the EFJ affiliate in Turkey, the Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikasi (Turkish Union of Journalists). He was arrested in March 2011 as part of the OdaTV case. The EFJ sent several observers to the hearings in this case. Ahmet Şık was freed in 2012 but still faces charges related to terrorism. He was injured while working as a photojournalist during the Gezi Protests at the end of May 2013. In April 2014, he was awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2014 by the UNESCO for his courageous work.

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