Spokesperson: EU closely following trials of journalists in Turkey

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Journalist Fevzi Yazıcı

A spokesperson for the European Union said the bloc is following the trials of journalists in Turkey very closely when asked to comment on the case of former Zaman daily art director Fevzi Yazıcı, who was put in solitary confinement by Turkish authorities in an attempt to coerce him to sign a fabricated document.

“We are following trials against journalists very closely,” said the spokesperson, adding that “the EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to respect the highest democratic standards and practices, including in the area of freedom of expression and media.”

Yazıcı was put in solitary confinement and reportedly threatened at police headquarters to admit to having carried a letter that was submitted to a New York court allegedly written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen ordering judges in Turkey to release several police officers in 2015.

According to information obtained from family members, on Dec. 8 Yazıcı was taken to İstanbul police headquarters from Silivri Prison, where he has been in pretrial detention since July 27, 2016. He was not informed of the accusations leveled against him and was not allowed to meet with his lawyers until Dec. 15.

During the interrogation Yazıcı did not admit to having put a letter on his USB or to have brought it from the US. Yazıcı said he visited the US to participate in a meeting of the Society for News Design (SND).

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir tweeted on Tuesday that he was concerned about media reports concerning Yazıcı.

“I am concerned about media reports that former art director of Zaman daily @fevziyazici, imprisoned since July of this year [sic], was placed in solitary confinement and reportedly threatened at police headquarters. I urge #Turkey to release all journalists in prison,” he tweeted.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also tweeted a recent Turkish Minute story on Yazıcı and said: “Very concerning development re #journalist #FevziYazici. @RT_Erdogan must stop imprisonment & harassment of #media & #journalists in #Turkey”

Washington Post Design Director Greg Manifold on Thursday tweeted: “Unbelievable news out of Turkey about friend Fevzi Yazici (). His name should be in the news because he was being released, not for what sounds like a doctored document allegedly found on his computer.”

The EU spokesperson further said that “the arrests of a large number of journalists and the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation have a grave impact on freedom of expression,” adding that “any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process and the right of every individual to fair trial needs to be respected.”

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