Journalists Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Güray Öz, Turhan Günay, Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, who were released pending trial on Friday as part of an investigation into the Cumhuriyet daily, went to their newspaper headquarters on Saturday after having been jailed for nine months.
Meeting with Cumhuriyet readers, journalists and staff at the daily’s offices in İstanbul, the newly freed journalists thanked everyone for their support while they were in prison and asked them to continue to support other colleagues who are still behind bars.
Cumhuriyet umbrella organization the Cumhuriyet Foundation executive member Çelik, who was also released on Friday, said while addressing the crowd on Saturday that the Cumhuriyet case had become a symbol of media freedom in Turkey.
Also speaking on Saturday at the daily’s headquarters, released Cumhuriyet columnist Kara said charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists, who were accused of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of being behind a failed coup last year, are not relevant.
“My beliefs prevent me from being part of FETÖ. I do the tango; does FETÖ do that? I believe in evolution; does FETÖ believe in it?” he said.
FETÖ is a derogatory term and acronym for the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the putsch.
An İstanbul court on Friday released seven journalists and continued the pretrial detention of five others who were jailed as part of an investigation last year into the Cumhuriyet daily.
While ruling to release seven Cumhuriyet journalists, the court also ruled to continue the pretrial detention of Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık and Kemal Aydoğdu.
Outstanding arrest warrants for Cumhuriyet’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and journalist İlhan Tanır also remained in place.
The suspects were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace on Nov. 5, 2016. Atalay was detained at İstanbul Atatürk Airport upon his return from Germany and subsequently arrested on Nov. 12, 2016.
Cumhuriyet reporter Şık was also detained on Dec. 22 and arrested on Dec. 30, 2016 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda.