Journalist accused of terror links freed from jail in Turkey

Journalists hold copies of Cumhuriyet hours before Kadri Gursel, a columnist for Cumhuriyet, Turkey's main opposition newspaper, being released from Silivri prison outside Istanbul, on Sept. 25, 2017. (AP)
Updated 27 September 2017

Journalist accused of terror links freed from jail in Turkey

ISTANBUL: A court in Istanbul has ordered the release from prison on bail of a leading Turkish journalist accused of having links to terrorist organizations.
Kadri Gursel, a columnist and editorial director at the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, was freed on Monday night after 11 months in Silivri jail in Istanbul. The court ruled that four other detained Cumhuriyet staff must remain behind bars while their trial continues.
“There is nothing to celebrate because several Cumhuriyet journalists are still facing unfair and baseless accusations,” Gursel said after his release. “Their freedoms have been taken away.”
He said he would continue his journalistic work despite difficult conditions for media freedom in Turkey.
Gursel and the other journalists are charged with having links to terrorism through their coverage of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the movement of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric accused by Ankara of being behind last year’s coup attempt. Their trial began in July and continues on Oct. 31.
Gonenc Gurkaynak, a lawyer in Istanbul, said Gursel’s release did not mean justice in Turkey had been fully delivered.
“As a British statesman famously said, justice delayed is justice denied,” he told Arab News.
“Instead of cheering his release, we should all feel shame and be astonished for every day he spent in jail for the past year.”
Steven M. Ellis, director of advocacy and communications at the International Press Institute, where Gursel is a board member, said his release was a step forward.
“We’re extremely glad that Kadri Gursel was released, but equally disappointed our other colleagues were not,” he said.
“Monday’s proceedings, with a parade of witnesses offering irrelevant commentary instead of facts, demonstrated again how absurd this case is,” and the ruling was a further reminder of the pressure on press freedom in Turkey.
However, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says most of those imprisoned are not journalists, but terrorists. “Many of them have been involved in bombing incidents or burglary,” he said in New York last week.
With 171 journalists behind bars, Turkey ranks 155 out of 179 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders. The Cumhuriyet trial is being closely followed by international observers and EU representatives, because Turkey has been a candidate country for the EU since 1999 and must meet accession criteria for press freedom.
Laura Batalla, secretary-general of the European Parliament Turkey Forum, said Gursel’s release was a sign of hope to other imprisoned journalists.
“Justice should be applied fairly and impartially in the trials of all those accused. The space for freedom of speech is worryingly shrinking in Turkey and it needs to be protected now more than ever,” she told Arab News.
Before Monday’s trial, pro-government newspapers Star and Aksam reported on Twitter that all the Cumhuriyet journalists would remain in prison. Both newspapers deleted the tweets, but the court lodged a criminal complaint against them.


Airstrike in northwestern Syria kills over 50 rebel fighters

Updated 26 October 2020

Airstrike in northwestern Syria kills over 50 rebel fighters

  • The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher toll, at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded

BEIRUT: An airstrike on a rebel training camp in northwestern Syria on Monday killed more than 50 Turkish-backed fighters and wounded nearly as many, a Syrian opposition spokesman and a war monitor said.
The airstrike in the northwestern part of Idlib province, the last rebel enclave in Syria, targeted a military training camp for Failaq Al-Sham, one of the largest Turkish-backed opposition groups in Syria, said Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for the groups.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, gave a higher toll, at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded. Rescue missions were still underway, the Observatory said. It said it also suspected the airstrike was carried out by Russia, which is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war.
Leaders of the camp were among those killed in airstrike in Jabal Al-Dweila, according to Hammoud. The camp is close to the borders with Turkey.
Syrian rebel groups vowed to retaliate.
“The factions of the National Front for Liberation we will respond to these violations,” said Naji Al-Mustafa, another spokesman for the Turkish-backed fighters, threatening to target government and Russian posts. He called it a “crime” by Russia.
Turkey and Russia had brokered a truce in Idlib earlier this year to halt a government offensive that displaced hundreds of thousands. But the truce remained shaky.
Turkey has long supported Syrian rebel forces in Syria. Russia has negotiated with Ankara to deploy observation teams in the rebel enclave to monitor the truce.
Last week, Turkish troops evacuated one of their largest military bases in the area, which was surrounded by Syrian government troops for months. Syrian opposition fighters said it was part of Turkey’s redeployment of its forces in the shrinking enclave.