Association of European Journalists criticises Ergenekon sentences as a ‘large backwards step’ for free expression in Turkey

The Association of European Journalists is acutely dismayed and alarmed at the verdicts and the severity of the sentences announced on 5 August against many journalists and writers involved in the Ergenekon trial. The judgements and decisions of the court in Istanbul represent a large backwards step for freedom of expression and other basic human rights in Turkey.

We urge the relevant Turkish authorities to pay attention to the justified international outcry against those judicial decisions. The excessively harsh sentences should be revoked without delay, and the government should accept the need for an independent review of allegations that many of the accused did not receive a fair trial. The rights of the accused to appeal against the verdicts and sentences must be properly respected.

The AEJ is especially concerned to note that the standard of the investigations and trial, the extended periods of pre-trial detention, and the harshness  of the sentences announced all contradict public pledges made by Turkish government  leaders, who have indicated that they would  bring Turkey’s laws and judicial standards into line with its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the country’s other international obligations.

We also call on the Turkish government to immediately cease all forms of official harassment and obstruction against supporters and families of the defendants in the Ergenekon trial; to allow peaceful assembly and protests; and to end the practice of pressuring Turkish media owners in order to silence or even force the dismissal of journalists who criticise or report negative things about the government, its leaders or its agencies.

And we call on the government once again to release all the journalists, writers and bloggers who are being wrongfully held in Turkish jails and places of detention because of what they have written or said.

This Statement is published as an AEJ Open Letter to the Turkish government from:

Eileen Dunne, AEJ President (Ireland)

Tibor Macak, AEJ Secretary-General (Slovakia)

William Horsley, AEJ Media Freedom Representative (UK)

Saia Tsaousidou, AEJ Vice-President (Greece)

Javier Arribas, AEJ Vice-President (Spain)

L.Dogan Tilic, Honorary Vice-President (Turkey)

Peter Kramer, AEJ Brussels Representative (Belgium)

Kristina Hristova, Special Representative for AEJ Enlargement in Eastern Europe and the Balkans

Koos van Houdt, official coordinator of the AEJ project Euregional Journalism