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Top Turkish court says journalists' rights violated

Turkey's top court said the rights of jailed journalist Kadri Gursel had been violated [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 3 May, 2019

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The controversial case against Cumhuriyet - one of the few remaining dailies opposing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - has sparked concerns over the state of free press in Turkey.

Turkey's highest court on Thursday ruled that the authorities had violated the human rights of two journalists critical of President Tayyip Erdogan following an attempted coup in 2016.

The Constitutional Court said the right to freedom of expression, freedom and personal security of journalists Kadri Gursel and Murak Aksoy had been violated, according to a report by the Anadolu news agency.  At the same time, the court rejected the appeals of four other journalists.

Gursel spent nearly a year in jail following his arrest in 2016 in the wake of the coup attempt against Erdogan in July of that year.

He was convicted last year with several colleagues from Cumhuriyet - one of the few remaining dailies opposing President Erdogan - for "helping terrorist organisations" after a trial that sparked concerns over the state of press freedom in Turkey.

Although Gursel is now free, five other former Cumhuriyet employees, including cartoonist Musa Kart, were returned to prison last week after their sentences were upheld.

Aksoy was also arrested after the failed coup. He was sentenced in March to more than two years in prison.

The constitutional court is also due to consider on Friday requests from three other journalists.

Cumhuriyet - the country's oldest daily founded in 1924 - has often had troubles with government authorities, with its former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fleeing to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria. 

The Cumhuriyet staff have been accused of coverage which offered support to three groups Turkey views as terrorists - the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the ultra-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the movement of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who is accused of ordering the July 2016 attempted coup.

Turkey is currently ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 Press Freedom Index.

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