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[UPDATE] 5 Cumhuriyet journalists released from prison after top court ruling

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Five journalists from the Cumhuriyet daily who have been in prison since April were released on Thursday evening after Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) overturned the sentences handed down to seven former Cumhuriyet employees and ordered the release of five of them, according to Turkish media.

Former Cumhuriyet employees Musa Kart, Güray Öz, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik were released from Kandıra Prison in northern Turkey.

The staff members released today are barred from leaving the country, Turkish media reports said.

Two of the seven – Kadri Gürsel and Bülent Utku – were not behind bars as Gürsel was released on probation in May and Utku had not turned himself in to authorities to serve his sentence as the other six had.

The court ruled to uphold the sentence of Emre İper, who will remain behind bars.

The Cumhuriyet trial involved a total of 18 defendants, journalists and media staff who faced terrorism-related charges due to the paper’s publications, some of whom started to serve prison sentences on April 25 of this year.

A press freedom report by the Council of Europe recently qualified Turkey as the world’s largest jailer of journalists.

“We welcome the ruling today by a Turkish court releasing former journalists and staff members of the embattled Cumhuriyet newspaper,” said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York.

“However, none of them should have been in prison in the first place. If Turkey wants to shed its reputation as the world’s worst jailer of journalists, it needs to release all imprisoned journalists and end its persecution of the press.”

Turkey was also ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

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