Journalist not released from prison despite serving required time, opposition deputy says

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A Turkish journalist who was given a prison sentence of six years, three months on terrorism charges is not being released from prison despite the fact that she is eligible to be freed on judicial probation, according to an opposition deputy.

The case of journalist Büşra Erdal, who used work for the now-closed Zaman daily, was brought up by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu during a program on MST TV.

Tanrıkulu said Erdal, who was among the dozens of journalists arrested in the aftermath of a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, has been arbitrarily held behind bars since March 30, 2020, the date she was eligible for release.

The deputy said there are dozens of people in prisons like Erdal who are not released despite serving the required time in prison and that he will continue to bring their cases to public attention.

Erdal was detained at her family home in the western Turkish province of Manisa on July 26, 2016 and was subsequently arrested on July 29, 2016.

A high criminal court in İstanbul in March 2018 concluded the trial of Erdal and dozens of other journalists and handed down a jail sentence of six years, three months to her on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The Zaman daily was closed down by the government during a massive purge that followed the abortive putsch in 2016 and targeted members of the faith-based Gülen movement. Although it strongly denies any involvement, Ankara accuses the movement of orchestrating the failed coup and designates it as a terrorist organization.

According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Turkey is ranked 154th among 180 countries, with more than 70 journalists currently behind bars.

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