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Re-arrest of journalists casts further shadow over independence of Turkish judiciary

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The independence and impartiality of the Turkish judiciary has begun to be questioned once again after an İstanbul court decided to release 21 journalists from jail on Friday but reversed its decision hours later without the journalists being ever freed.

The İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court had ruled for the release of 21 out of 26 journalists who were accused of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, which has been designated as a terror organization by the Turkish government and accused of orchestrating a failed coup last summer.

The 21 journalists were not released because either a prosecutor objected to the release of some of them or a new investigation was launched into others.

The development has led to huge disappointment among families of the journalists who waited for long hours in front of prisons in İstanbul to be reunited with their loved ones.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Barış Yarkadaş, who commented on the re-arrest of the 21 journalists from his Twitter account on Saturday, wrote: “When the suspects who had been in pre-trial detention for eight months were to be released, heavy pressure was imposed on the judiciary. It is claimed that the Justice Ministry and the HSYK [the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors] took action [for the re-arrest of the journalists] upon a campaign launched on Twitter.”

Yarkadaş was referring to calls from some pro-government figures who from their Twitter accounts condemned the court decision for the release of the journalists and called for their arrest again.

“The prosecutor who asked for the release of the journalists in the morning changed his mind in the evening. The same prosecutor issued a detention warrant for eight of the journalists. What happened in 12 hours to make the prosecutor to change his mind? A real massacre of the law is taking place now,” wrote Yarkadaş.

Another CHP deputy, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, who is also the former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, also criticized the re-arrest of the 21 journalists from his Twitter account on Saturday.

“Since these people who had been in pre-trial detention for seven months cannot have committed a crime in prison and if there is a criminal accusation against them, then why did prosecutors wait for the day of their release to press charges against them? The journalists’ not being released despite the court decision and the new detention orders issued for them are the most obvious examples of a de facto judicial order,” Tanrıkulu wrote in a series of messages from his Twitter account.

In the meantime, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described the re-arrest of the 21 journalists as “devastating,” while it called on Turkish authorities to release all journalists imprisoned for their work and to drop all charges against them, in a message from its Twitter account on Saturday.

The journalists were accused of membership of a hoax terror organization called “FETÖ,” a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to smear the civic Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization.”

The indictment revealed that they are accused of membership in a terrorist organization due to their stories, critical tweets and retweets in the absence of evidence of any violent activity or the means to engage in violence.

Prepared by İstanbul prosecutor Murat Çağlak, the indictment was submitted to the court on Jan. 16. After analyzing the indictment, TurkishMinute.com determined that there is not a single incident of terrorist activity on the part of any of the journalists as they are overwhelmingly being charged for their critical messages on Twitter.

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