TURKEY: IPI's Turkish National Committee Welcomes Release of Journalist in Oda TV Case

TURKEY, TURKEY, 26/02/2012, 10:05

he International Press Institute (IPI)’s Turkish National Committee today welcomed the release of one of the defendants in the Oda TV trial and called for the release of other journalists the group said had been jailed because of their work.

News website Bianet reported Wednesday that an Istanbul court ordered the release of journalist and author Doğan Yurdakul, 66, for health reasons.

The journalist is said to suffer from hypertension and problems with his heart and his renal system. He also reportedly developed diabetes and a cyst on one of his kidneys in the 11 months since his detention on Mar. 3, 2011.

Yurdakul’s lawyers reportedly told the court that Yurdakul's continued incarceration could cause a further deterioration in his condition that could possibly lead to his death.

IPI’s Turkish National Committee said in a statement:

“We welcome the release of Doğan Yurdakul in consideration of his health problems….We look forward to the release, pending trial, of those other journalists who are detained and who are being prosecuted for having done their job.”

Yurdakul was formally arrested on March 6 and until his release this week shared a prison cell at the Silivri Prison west of Istanbul with IPI World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Şener and journalist Ahmet Şık.

The three are part of a group of 10 journalists and others charged with various crimes related to the government’s claim that they and nationalist news website Oda TV served as the media wing of the alleged “Ergenekon” plot. They deny accusations that their role was to use their positions to discredit a probe into the alleged plot by secularists and ultra-nationalists to use terrorism to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government.

IPI’s Turkish National Committee in its statement today also urged the government to reform “all articles [of Turkish law] blocking press freedom and the freedom of speech” and it called for full “implementation of the people’s right to obtain information.”

Over 100 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey, most in pre-trial detention. Most of those detained are alleged to have violated criminal or anti-terrorism laws banning membership or support in armed criminal organisations. Approximately one third of those imprisoned reportedly were taken into custody in connection with the Ergenekon probe, while the others were detained on charges stemming from alleged ties to banned Kurdish and leftist groups.

IPI and its subsidiary, the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), have criticised Turkey’s treatment of journalists in the past year, including the conditions under which journalists are imprisoned. Suzan Zengin – a human rights activist, journalist and translator who spent two years in pre-trial detention for alleged ties to an illegal Marxist organisation – died last October of an undisclosed ailment, four months after she was released. Critics attributed her death to the government’s alleged failure to provide adequate medical care for chronic health problems during her incarceration.

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