Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said on Monday that the trial of Cumhuriyet journalists on charges of sponsoring terrorist organizations is a mockery of justice.
Speaking to The Associated Press outside İstanbul’s Silivri Prison, where five Cumhuriyet journalists — Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık and Kemal Aydoğdu – are being held, Deloire criticized the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for suppressing pluralism and a free press in the country.
“[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan succeeded in suppressing pluralism and free press in this country. There are only a few remaining free media and we have to defend them,” he said.
Seven journalists were released during the first hearing in July by an İstanbul court, which continued the pretrial detention of five others. The remaining five journalists are being tried without arrest.
The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in an April indictment accuse them 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.
The court in July released Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Bülent Utku, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik, Turhan Günay and Mustafa Kemal Güngör and continued the pretrial detention of Atalay, Sabuncu, Gürsel, Şık and Aydoğdu.
Arrest warrants for Cumhuriyet’s former-editor-in-chief Can Dündar and US-based journalist İlhan Tanır are still outstanding.
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.