ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s top court ruled on Thursday that detaining two journalists from an opposition newspaper had violated their rights, and the newspaper’s acting editor-in-chief said their release was expected soon.
The arrest of Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul last November drew international condemnation and revived concern about media freedom in Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan.
They were detained after the publication of video footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping to send weapons to Syria. They could have faced life sentences without parole if convicted, their lawyers had said.
“The constitutional court has ruled that there is a rights violation. An immediate appeal will be made ... We are expecting their release,” Tahir Ozyurt, Cumhuriyet’s acting editor-in-chief, told Reuters.
In the ruling, the court said the arrest of the journalists was “not lawful” and violated their individual freedom and safety, adding “the ruling should be sent to the relevant court to overturn this breach”.
Cumhuriyet’s managing director Akin Atalay told Reuters that under normal circumstances the two would be released later on Thursday after the constitutional court ruled rights had been violated but their release might be delayed to Friday because the court that would order their release was already in session.
The two were charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organization and publishing material in violation of state security. Cumhuriyet published photos, videos and a report last May that it said showed intelligence officials transporting arms to Syria in trucks in 2014.
Erdogan, who has cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey’s global standing, said he would not forgive such reporting.
He has acknowledged that the trucks, which were stopped by gendarmerie and police officers en route to the Syrian border, belonged to the MIT intelligence agency and said they were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria. Turkmen fighters are battling both President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Islamic State.
Additional reporting by Melih Aslan; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by David Dolan and Hugh Lawson