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ECHR finds Turkey guilty of freedom of speech violation

9 July 2014

The European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) on 8th July found Turkey guilty of violating freedom of speech and the right to a free trial in the prosecution of journalists Ahmet Şık (L) and Nedim Şener (R), who were jailed as part of the controversial OdaTV case, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports.

Both men spent more than a year in prison while awaiting trial before the publication of Şık’s book, titled “The Imam’s Army,” which focused on the organisation of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s followers within the police and the judiciary.

Their long detentions created global outcry and many campaigns were launched by international rights groups for their release. They were eventually freed on 12th March, 2012.

In two separate ECHR rulings for both Şık and Şener, Turkey was found guilty of violating Article 5-3 of the European Convention of Human Rights on the “length and reasonableness of pre-trial,” Article 5-4 on “procedural guarantees of review,” and Article 10 on “freedom of expression.”

The Strasbourg-based court also fined Turkey to pay 10,000 euros in compensation to Şık and 20,000 euros to Şener.

Şener hailed the EHCR’s decision as a ruling that shows journalism is not a crime, noting that the court had accepted their application even before the trial commenced.

“The application was accepted at a time when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the book as a ‘bomb.’ This decision shows that the book was not a bomb and that journalism is not terrorism,” Şener said.

The two journalists applied to the ECHR in 2012 on the grounds that they had been arrested without concrete evidence and had not been informed of the charges against them. The two also claimed that their freedom of expression was being restricted. The court accepted the application and demanded the Turkish government’s defence in November 2011, setting 14th March as the deadline.

In its 8th July decision, the ECHR also rejected the Turkish government’s argument that the case was reviewed before the exhaustion of internal legal paths.

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