Turkish ruling may free journalists

Erdem Gul (left) and Can Dundar

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Erdem Gul (left) and Can Dundar say they were just doing their job

Two journalists charged with revealing state secrets had their rights violated, a Turkish court has ruled.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, were detained in November over a report alleging that the Turkish government tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria.

But Turkey’s constitutional court has challenged the charges, saying they violated freedom of the press.

The ruling could pave the way for their release after three months in jail.

Mr Dundar, the paper’s editor-in-chief, and Mr Gul, its Ankara bureau chief, have already spent 92 days in jail and had been due to go on trial on 25 March.

The court, which convened to discuss the journalists’ individual petitions, ruled that their “rights to personal liberty and security had been violated”.

“Their freedom of expression and freedom of press” was also violated, the court said in a statement.

The decision was overwhelmingly approved with 12 votes for and three against, Turkish media reports said.

Turkish reporters defiant over espionage claim

The case has now been sent back to the lower criminal court, which should approve the top court’s decision and allow the release of the journalists possibly within hours, the private NTV television station reported.

Reports said their lawyers had already filed the petition for the pair’s release at the Istanbul court, which ordered their arrest.

The report that landed the two journalists in jail claimed to show proof that a consignment of weapons seized at the border in January 2014 was bound for Syria.

Since then, they have both been held in the Silivri jail on the outskirts of Istanbul.

They have been formally charged with obtaining and revealing state secrets “for espionage purposes” and seeking to “violently” overthrow the Turkish government as well as aiding an “armed terrorist organisation”.

Freedom of the press in Turkey

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  • Turkey ranks 149th amongst the 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2015
  • Media organisations in Turkey say that more than 30 journalists are currently behind bars
  • Most are of Kurdish origin
  • The government argues journalism in Turkey is among the most free in the world

Press freedom ‘a major concern’

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