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ECtHR asks for Turkey’s defense in case of jailed Cumhuriyet journalists

A Protester holds a copy of the latest edition of the Turkish daily newspaper "Cumhuriyet" during a demonstration outside the newspaper's headquarters in Istanbul on November 2,2016. Turkish police on November 1, 2016, detained the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet -- a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- as Ankara widens a crackdown on opposition media. The Cumhuriyet, which had published revelations embarrassing for the government, said at least a dozen journalists and executives were detained in early morning raids. The raids came after authorities fired more than 10,000 civil servants at the weekend and closed 15 pro-Kurdish and other media outlets, the latest purge since July's failed military coup aimed at ousting Erdogan. / AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has asked Turkey to submit a defense in the case against 10 jailed Cumhuriyet daily journalists, telling the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to provide a written defense by Oct. 2.

In April, the ECtHR agreed to give priority to the cases of the arrested Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, asking Turkey to provide the reasons for jailing them.

Ten journalists and executives from Cumhuriyet, including its Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, were arrested on terror charges by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace last November.

In a press statement on Tuesday, the Strasbourg-based court said the applicants challenged the relevant detention orders before judges of the peace and applied, unsuccessfully, for release, and they also lodged individual petitions before the Constitutional Court; those proceedings are currently pending.

The court also gave details about the Cumhuriyet staff’s application made on March 2, saying it was based on the right to liberty and security, the right to a speedy review of the lawfulness of the detention, freedom of expression and limitations on the use of restrictions on rights.

According to the ECtHR, the journalists and executives complained about their pre-trial detention and its duration, and also claimed that there had been a breach of their freedom of expression. They further alleged that their detention was a sanction against them for criticizing the government and amounted to politically motivated judicial harassment.

The Cumhuriyet journalists and executives face allegations of aiding the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and “FETÖ.”

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government to refer to the Gülen movement, which Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15. The movement strongly denies the accusation.

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