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A TURKISH court acquitted three high-profile journalists of “terrorist propaganda” charges today, but many more remain behind bars.
Erol Onderoglu, Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincanci all walked free from the High Criminal Court in Istanbul after a three-year fight to prove their innocence.
Each had temporarily assumed the rotating role of guest editor at pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem in 2016, when it was threatened with prosecution.
All three faced more than 14 years in jail for “inciting the committing of crimes,” “praising crime and criminals” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation.”
Ozgur Gundem has since been closed down under state of emergency laws passed following the coup attempt of July 15 2016.
Using the short-lived revolt as a prextext, the government began a mass crackdown on all opposition journalists.
Applause broke out in the courtroom following today’s verdict.
Ms Fincanci told the Agence France Presse news agency that she was “very surprised” by her acquittal.
“I don’t know how to react,” she said. “Unfortunately, we spent an unnecessary amount of time in jail, it’s a shame.
“It was the only decision possible, but there should not have been a trial in the first place.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), of which Mr Onderoglu is a member, said it was “relieved” by the result.
“But three years of absurd proceedings was already a form of unjust punishment. And a new trial against Erol will start on November 7. These charges must be dropped,” the press freedom group tweeted.
Turkey is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF.
Lawyer Meric Eyuboglu, who represented Ms Fincanci, said the verdict was bittersweet because others who had also guest-edited the newspaper had received jail sentences.
“We were thinking that they would receive a sentence because of the verdicts in other similar cases and the political juncture we are going through,” she said.
Prosecutors are continuing to demand a sentence for Ozgur Gundem executive editor Huseyin Aykol and editor-in-chief Reyhan Capan on charges of “publicly provoking crime,” “praising the crime and the guilty parties” and “making propaganda for an illegal organisation.”
The case has been postponed to give time for lawyers to prepare, with the next hearing due on November 21.
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