“The scope of the investigation [against daily Cumhuriyet's Dündar and Gül] is not related to the freedom of media, which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution in Turkey” read the letter penned by the Justice Ministry and handed to the Council of Europe by Turkey's Permanent Representation on Dec. 3.
“The utmost care is being shown so that the rights and freedoms of the suspects are protected as stipulated by the relevant laws, which are in accordance with international norms. Moreover, effective legal remedies to which the suspects may resort exist in domestic law” it added.
Cumhuriyet's editor-in-chief, Dündar, and the paper's Ankara bureau chief, Gül, were imprisoned on Nov. 26 on charges of aiding an armed terrorist organization and political or military espionage over their articles in May, June and October on the interception of trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The articles suggested that the trucks intercepted in January 2014 were allegedly shipping weapons to opposition groups fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
The imprisonment of the two prominent journalists created an outcry inside and outside Turkey, with leading international press organizations submitting an alert on the state of freedom of media in Turkey to the Council of Europe on Nov 26.
The alert was submitted by Reporters without Borders (RSF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) and the Index on Censorship.
‘Willfully aiding terror organization'
The information provided by Turkey summarized the judicial process and recalled that the journalists were detained on charges of “willfully aiding an armed organization without being a member of it; obtaining state information which should be kept secret for the purpose of political or military espionage; and disclosing, for the purpose of espionage, information which relates to the security of the state and which is to remain secret.”
It also added why Dündar and Gül were not released by the court pending trial: “The abovementioned suspects, in connection with these charges, were detained on remand in a decision dated Nov. 26, 2015, by the Istanbul 7th Criminal Magistrate. As per law, based on the conclusion that the application of judicial control measures would be insufficient due to the nature of offenses they have been charged with, the said magistrate decided to detain the suspects in accordance with Article 100 et seq. of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”