Court Changes Ruling After Campaign Against Release of Journalists

When Sehriban Aksoy went to Istanbul Silivri Prison, a notorious complex outside the city, late Friday night it was just a matter of moment to reunite with her husband, Murat Aksoy, after 8 months of separation.

Earlier in the day, the court ruled to release 21 journalists in a ruling that created a sense of hope for other imprisoned journalists.

At least 70 vehicles, journalists, and families of the journalists thronged into the entrance of prison complex, waiting to see release of their beloved ones. A small unit of gendarmerie commandos were deployed in case of a disturbance, but mostly to block the families.

Families were told to step back a few yards away from the gates, and they complied with whatever they were told and parked cars near the highway as told. Then, the commander again moved them to somewhere else, saying that the dropping point of journalists changed. They again obeyed to instructions at the middle of the night as their patience were waning to embrace the journalists.

“The car which got out of Gate No:9 where are you now? We are excitedly waiting :),” Sehriban Aksoy tweeted, revealing a tough struggle to contain her emotions.    

The anxious wait gave way to a bewildering sense of confusion as families checked their phones to stay in tune with latest news. Moments later Ms. Aksoy asked on Twitter: What is going on? Please help. Any information?”

And the moment of truth came. She again tweeted as no military or civilian officials appeared to be willing for cooperation for sharing any info with anxious families outside the prison.

“21 [journalists] detained. Is this true?” she asked on Twitter. Before giving up in despair and anguish, she last time tweeted. “Where are they? We cannot obtain information here, we are waiting in Silivri.” No more tweet.

What would be one of the most beautiful nights of her life rather turned to a nightmare, a heart-rending tragedy that encapsulated the agony of all families some of whom waited until early hours of the morning.

On the other side of the aisle, probably journalists also bided their time with an irresistible sense of excitement over union with their families. But when they were transferred to a section before release, they were struck with the prosecutor’s demand to detain them. Before being released, they were again detained, arrested. A day full of hopes ended up in misery.

What drove the high drama of sudden twists and turns was a well-orchestrated campaign led by pro-government journalists.

Pro-government journalist Cem Kucuk initiated the campaign on social media to mount pressure on prosecutors and judges to overturn the decision to release “FETO” journalists. In a series of tweets, he called on High Council of Judges and Prosecutors to dismiss the judge and prosecutor for their role over release ruling, urged Justice Minister to take immediate action.

Sometimes, his Tweets are read as an ultimatum and dictates against the government to withhold the rulings, otherwise, face a backlash from people.

“Those prosecutors and judges who release FETO members will be expelled from the profession. This is ultimate decision of the state. Let everybody know that,” he tweeted.

“People are the masters of these courts and this state. No release could take place against the will of the nation. Nobody should test the limit of patience of people and the state,” he fumed.

Another internet bomb thrower and agitator Fatih Tezcan also unreserved in his full-throated threats.

“If FETO killers in Silivri are released, people’s trust in justice will end and they take matters into their hands. Do not test this nation! #kriptohakimler,” he said on Twitter.

The anti-Gulenist frenzy drove the fervor among government supporters. But leftist and other ideological figures on social media also appeared to be unhappy about the release of journalists.

Leftist journalist Ismail Saymaz questioned the release of Busra Erdal, a former Zaman journalist, while keeping Ahmet Sik and other journalists in prison. Some liberals lamented about the pervasive ideological fissures that divide Turkey’s opposition at a time they must fight for freedoms for everyone, not just for one group.

Investigative journalist and popular historian Ayse Hur also criticized the mentality of selective justice and pointed out that regardless of political affiliations, fight for justice and freedoms must take place for every individual.

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