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ECtHR faults Turkey for arresting journalist after 2016 coup

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Turkey violated Articles 5 (1), (3), (4), (5) and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of a journalist who was arrested by a Turkish court following an attempted coup in 2016.

Turkish journalist Abdullah Kılıç was arrested in 2016 as part of a mass crackdown on the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames for the coup attempt. Gülen and the movement deny any involvement.

On July 24, 2016 a judge ordered a search of 41 individuals’ homes, including Kılıç’s. The following day, an arrest warrant was issued for Kılıç, and he was arrested on July 26. 

The prosecutor charged the applicant with membership in a terrorist organization in January 2017. 

The prosecution presented as evidence articles written by the applicant, postings on his Twitter account, his bank account with Bank Asya, a now-closed Gülen-linked bank, and testimony from five individuals who described him as close to the Gülen movement. 

Kılıç filed an application with the ECtHR on March 31, 2017 alleging violations of Articles 5, 10, and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The ECtHR noted that Kılıç’s arrest was not justified by concrete evidence, underlining that there was no specific information or facts presented during the proceedings to support the allegations against the applicant, resulting in an unjustified and unlawful pretrial detention.

The ECtHR ruled that Turkey violated Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the ECHR as well as Article 5 § 3 (entitlement to trial within a reasonable time or release pending trial), Article 5 § 4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention) and Article 5 § 5 [right to be free from arbitrary detention) in the pretrial detention of Kılıç. The court also found that Turkey had violated Kılıç’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the convention.

Turkey has been ordered to pay Kılıç 12,275 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 1,100 euros for costs and expenses, plus any taxes due on those amounts.

The ECtHR has over the years issued rulings in the cases of some journalists who were unlawfully jailed in Turkey such as Murat Sabuncu, Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak and ordered Turkey to pay damages to those journalists.

Turkey was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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