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Appeals court upholds sentences handed down to 5 journalists for reporting on intel officer’s killing in Libya: report

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A regional appeals court in İstanbul has upheld prison sentences handed down to five journalists over their reports on a Turkish intelligence officer killed in Libya, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

In September 2020 the İstanbul 34th High Criminal Court sentenced Barış Pehlivan and Hülya Kılınç to three years, nine months in prison, while Ferhat Çelik, Aydın Keser and Murat Ağırel received four years, eight months each on charges of “disclosing information related to national security” and “disclosing documents pertaining to intelligence operations.”

Their sentences were upheld by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice on Wednesday.

The journalists published reports and tweeted about the secretly held funeral of an agent of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed during a mission in Libya.

Barış Terkoğlu was acquitted of the charges along with Eren Ekinci, an employee of the municipality where the intelligence officer’s funeral took place, who was accused of providing pictures to the journalists of the funeral of the deceased intelligence officer.

The charges against the journalists center on articles and social media posts published shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in February 2020 that Turkey had “several martyrs” in Libya.

According to the indictment, Ağırel was the first to reveal the identity of the intelligence officer, sharing his name and photos on Twitter and referencing Erdoğan’s comments.

Turkey had provided military support and training in Libya to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it fend off a 14-month assault on Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces led by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index announced in April.

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