None of the journalists currently jailed in Turkey have been prosecuted due to charges related to their profession, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said.
“There are detained or convicted journalists in prisons in Turkey. There have been judgments made concerning claims about these journalists during both the investigation and trial stages. When I look at the claims made during the investigation stage, there is no journalist prosecuted for reporting in Turkey. When you look at convicted journalists, there is no journalist convicted for reporting either. However, the crimes that are imputed are different crimes,” Bozdağ said.
His remarks came after journalists had said appeals for the release of prominent journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who have been jailed on charges of “aiding terrorist organizations,” have been constantly refused, while opposition parties have urged the government to try them without placing them in pre-trial detention.
Cumhuriyet daily’s editor-in-chief Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Gül were arrested on Nov. 26 on charges of aiding an armed terrorist organization and committing political or military espionage over reports in Cumhuriyet on the interception of trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). The articles claimed that the trucks, intercepted in January 2014, were shipping weapons to jihadist groups fighting across the border in Syria.
The imprisonment of Dündar and Gül created an outcry inside and outside Turkey, with leading international press organizations alerting the Council of Europe on Turkey’s state of media freedom on Nov. 26.
Last week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said he was “in principle” against arrest pending trial unless absolutely necessary.
“This is a civilized country and my understanding of justice is in line with this. Someone is guilty only after a final verdict is given. There is no need to punish them before the decision is given” Davutoğlu said, while stressing that he “cannot intervene in the judicial process” as that would be a violation of the separation of powers.