Turkey Suspends Judges Who Ruled To Release Journalists

Turkish authorities have suspended 3 judges who ruled to release 21 journalists imprisoned for nearly 8 months, signaling that the judiciary is under the tight control of the government.

Turkey’s top judicial body (HSYK) responsible for the appointment of judges and prosecutors suspended judges Ibrahim Lorasdagi, Baris Comert and Necla Yesilyurt Gulbicim over their decision to release 21 out of 26 journalists.

Prosecutor Goksel Turan was also suspended, who prepared the indictment, mostly composed of tweets, retweets and books authored by the journalists.

Hours after the release of the journalists, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled to detain the journalists and all of the journalists were brought to the detention center.

Because the journalists are facing terror charges, they might remain under custody up to 30 days.

Soon after the court decision to release the journalists was announced, pro-government journalists launched a campaign on TV talk shows and on the social media to smear the imprisoned reporters. Some of them, such as Cem Kucuk, threatened judges who released them.

The families of 21 journalists were waiting outside of the Silivri Prison for hours to reunite with their loved ones, but they had to return home.

“The judges and prosecutors who let FETO supporters released will be expelled. This is the decision of the state. Everyone should know this,” Mr. Kucuk said on TV after the decision. FETO is a term used to refer to the Gulen movement. Observers sometimes have a hard time in distinguishing Mr. Kucuk as a journalist and a government mouthpiece.

Baris Yarkadas, a lawmaker from the opposition party CHP, criticized the re-arrest decision of the journalist. Mr. Yarkadas said there is a heavy pressure on the judiciary and that the prosecutors ordered to detain the suspects after the social media campaign.

There is still a significant number of jailed journalists and media workers in Turkey since the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and many of them are kept in a pretrial detention.

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