Turkey releases journalists charged with espionage

Two Turkish journalists were released from Silivri prison early Feb. 26 after Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the detention violated their personal liberty, security, and freedom of expression and press. Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, employees of the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, were arrested last November for reporting in 2014 that Turkish trucks were smuggling arms to Islamist groups in Syria. The Turkish government denied the allegations and later made contradictory claims that the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid or ammunition to rebel groups. Subsequently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a claim against the reporters and accused them of cooperating with FETO, a secret movement intending to falsely link the Turkish government to terrorist groups. Though Dundar and Gul have been freed, they still face the government's charges and must stand trial on March 25.

Turkey has been accused of violating the freedom of expression on numerous recent occasions. In December the European Court of Human Rights ruled  unanimously that a Turkish court order blocking access to YouTube violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In April a prosecutor in Turkey ordered Internet providers to block social networking sites including Twitter and YouTube. Human Rights Watch in September 2014 reported  that Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was taking steps to weaken the rule of law, control Internet and media and suppress critics and protesters. In April 2014 the Turkish government lifted a ban on Twitter following a Constitutional Court ruling stating that the ban violated both individual rights as well as the freedom of expression.

From Jurist, Feb. 26. Used with permission.

Note: The Syrian Islamist group in the 2014 incident appears to have been the Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front, but the Turkish state has also been accused of conniving with ISIS. FETO appears to be the so-called "Fethullah Terrorist Organization," a supposed underground network of followers of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.