Turkey’s Court of Cassation, the high court of appeals, has once again demanded the acquittal of former employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper who were previously sentenced on terrorism charges, daily Sözcü reported on Feb. 4.
The Cumhuriyet staff have been in and out of jail since their trial began on July 24, 2017. They were accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the network of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara says organized the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
In a case that drew global outrage over press freedom in Turkey, the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court on April 25, 2018 sentenced 13 employees of the newspaper to various jail terms on terrorism charges.
The case was then taken to the Court of Cassation which in a ruling on Sept. 12, 2019 overturned the sentences and freed the former journalists pending retrial. But in a ruling on Nov. 21, 2019, the lower court ignored that decision and reconfirmed the original sentences, with the exception of one journalist – Kadri Gürsel – who was acquitted.
The case of the defendants was then re-evaluated by the Court of Cassation, which in a new ruling reiterated its previous stance, demanding for the second time the acquittal of the former Cumhuriyet staff, with the exception of journalist and politician Ahmet Şık.
As in its previous ruling, the Court of Cassation said that instead of being tried on charges of “helping a terrorist organization,” Şık should be tried on charges of “praising a terrorist organization through media,” “undertaking propaganda of a terrorist organization” and “insulting state bodies.”
If the 27th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court once again defies the higher ruling, the case will be sent to Court of Cassation’s assembly of criminal chambers, whose decision will be binding and ultimate.