US asks Turkey to ensure judicial independence, release journalists

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US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert asked Turkey to ensure judicial independence and release imprisoned journalists, during a press briefing on Thursday.

Nauert, who was asked a question about Cumhuriyet daily journalists, whose trials began on Monday after more than nine months in jail and for whom an interim verdict is to be given on Friday, said: “The United States remains seriously concerned about the widespread arrest and pretrial detention that’s taking place of individuals in Turkey who have been critical of that government. You mentioned the trial of 17 newspaper reporters. I know you are very familiar with this case, and many of us here have followed those cases as well. We continue to urge the government of Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to also release the journalists and others who we believe are being held arbitrarily under the government’s state of emergency.”

Expressing concerns about the current situation in Turkey, Nauert said US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass had previously visited the Cumhuriyet daily and that US Embassy personnel had observed some of the trial proceedings.

“He’s gone there, and that really shows our level of concern, the fact that he has gone there to express his support for journalists there, his support for our belief in freedom of expression, including freedom of expression that other governments and other individuals might find uncomfortable. So he continues to underscore our support for free, independent media, important work that they do in democratic societies,” added Nauert.

The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in an April indictment accuse them of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Gülen movement.

The suspects were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace on Nov. 5, 2016.

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