The headquarters of the Cumhuriyet newspaper is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 16, 2017. Five imprisoned staffers of the paper were released following an appeals court decision today. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Five staffers of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper released from jail

September 12, 2019 3:34 PM ET

Istanbul, September 12, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed a decision by the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals to overturn a verdict by a lower court and release five former staffers of the Cumhuriyet newspaper who have been imprisoned since April.

Cartoonist Musa Kart, columnists Güray Öz and Hakan Kara, board member Önder Çelik, and lawyer Mustafa Kemal Güngör, none of whom are now employed by the paper, were released this evening from Kandıra prison, where they had been held since turning themselves in to authorities in April after their appeal was denied, according to news reports and CPJ reporting from the time.

The court did not overturn the sentence of former Cumhuriyet accountant Emre İper, who remains in jail, according to those reports. The staffers released today are barred from leaving the country, those reports said.

“We welcome the ruling today by a Turkish court releasing former journalists and staff members of the embattled Cumhuriyet newspaper,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said in New York. “However, none of them should have been in prison in the first place. If Turkey wants to shed its reputation as the world's worst jailer of journalists, it needs to release all imprisoned journalists and end its persecution of the press.”

On April 25, 2018, an Istanbul court convicted 14 journalists and staffers affiliated with Cumhuriyet of aiding terrorist organizations, and sentenced them to jail terms ranging from three to seven years for their alleged affiliation with exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, as CPJ reported at the time. All the journalists and staffers except İper have been released following today’s verdict, and those thirteen defendants will be retried for the original terrorism charges at a lower court at an undetermined date, according to reports.

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