21 December 2017 – On 25 and 26 December, the fifth hearing will take place in the trial of Cumhuriyet journalists that has been on-going in Istanbul, Turkey, since 24 July 2017. On trial are 17 journalists, lawyers, executives and an accountant of Cumhuriyet daily, facing tenuous charges of aiding and abetting terrorist organisations and violating managerial duties. PEN International, working in coalition with Turkish PEN, PEN Belgium/Flanders, Norsk PEN, Swiss-Italian and Retho-romansh PEN and PEN Suisse Romand and a host of other free expression groups, has observed all of the hearings in the case so far. On 25-26 December, PEN International and PEN Belgium/Flanders will be attending the hearing.
PEN International will be attending the trial and live tweeting developments, where possible. As one of a small number of international observers , we want your help to spread these tweets as far as possible on social media. Joining this social media campaign is simple. Simply follow @pen_int on twitter and either re-tweet our updates or quote them on your twitter account with the hash tag: #FreedomOnTrial
Viewed in light of recent events in Turkey, it is difficult to dismiss arguments that the case against the staff of Cumhuriyet daily is a politically motivated effort to criminalise critical journalism, as part of the authorities’ onslaught on freedom of expression since the attempted coup of July 2016. PEN International is alarmed that the case appears to be grounded on a theory that equates journalism with violent extremism. The authorities have failed to conduct a proper investigation into the charges, and the prosecution at trial has relied on weak evidence, attempts to prove guilt through tenuous association, and the use of ‘experts’ of questionable expertise. The trial thus far has been marred by fair trial violations, which have served to demonstrate the lack of independence and impartiality of the court.
Meanwhile, four members of the Cumhuriyet staff remain in pre-trial detention: Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Sik, Akin Atalay and Emre Iper. PEN International calls for their immediate and unconditional release. PEN International, together with other free expression organisations, has intervened as a third party before the European Court of Human Rights in Ahmet Sik’s challenge of his continued pre-trial detention.
For further details contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org