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Court rejects journalist’s request for release due to ‘flight risk’

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A Turkish court has declined to release a journalist who was arrested last week on terrorist propaganda charges on the grounds that he is considered a “flight risk,” the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

Merdan Yanardağ, the editor-in-chief of Turkish broadcaster TELE1, was arrested last Tuesday over televised remarks regarding Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Yanardağ’s lawyers petitioned an İstanbul court for his release, claiming that his arrest violates the constitution and the relevant laws. The court rejected their request on the grounds that Yanardağ is considered a flight risk.

Yanardağ is facing charges of “praising crime and a criminal” as well as “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” based on his comments about Öcalan during a June 20 broadcast on TELE1. Yanardağ had said that Öcalan should have been released if the Law on the Execution of Punishments and Security Measures was abided by, and he criticized the legal basis for the “isolation” imposed on Öcalan.

The “isolation” of Öcalan, who has been jailed in a high-security prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999, refers to his inability to speak with his lawyers for years.

After spending a night in police custody, Yanardağ was arrested at the request of the prosecutor the following day.

The journalist said his remarks were taken out of context.

Yanardağ’s arrest has drawn international attention to ongoing concerns about freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Turkey.

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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