Journalist accused of terror links freed from jail in Turkey

Journalists hold copies of Cumhuriyet hours before Kadri Gursel, a columnist for Cumhuriyet, Turkey's main opposition newspaper, being released from Silivri prison outside Istanbul, on Sept. 25, 2017. (AP)
Updated 27 September 2017

Journalist accused of terror links freed from jail in Turkey

ISTANBUL: A court in Istanbul has ordered the release from prison on bail of a leading Turkish journalist accused of having links to terrorist organizations.
Kadri Gursel, a columnist and editorial director at the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, was freed on Monday night after 11 months in Silivri jail in Istanbul. The court ruled that four other detained Cumhuriyet staff must remain behind bars while their trial continues.
“There is nothing to celebrate because several Cumhuriyet journalists are still facing unfair and baseless accusations,” Gursel said after his release. “Their freedoms have been taken away.”
He said he would continue his journalistic work despite difficult conditions for media freedom in Turkey.
Gursel and the other journalists are charged with having links to terrorism through their coverage of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the movement of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric accused by Ankara of being behind last year’s coup attempt. Their trial began in July and continues on Oct. 31.
Gonenc Gurkaynak, a lawyer in Istanbul, said Gursel’s release did not mean justice in Turkey had been fully delivered.
“As a British statesman famously said, justice delayed is justice denied,” he told Arab News.
“Instead of cheering his release, we should all feel shame and be astonished for every day he spent in jail for the past year.”
Steven M. Ellis, director of advocacy and communications at the International Press Institute, where Gursel is a board member, said his release was a step forward.
“We’re extremely glad that Kadri Gursel was released, but equally disappointed our other colleagues were not,” he said.
“Monday’s proceedings, with a parade of witnesses offering irrelevant commentary instead of facts, demonstrated again how absurd this case is,” and the ruling was a further reminder of the pressure on press freedom in Turkey.
However, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says most of those imprisoned are not journalists, but terrorists. “Many of them have been involved in bombing incidents or burglary,” he said in New York last week.
With 171 journalists behind bars, Turkey ranks 155 out of 179 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders. The Cumhuriyet trial is being closely followed by international observers and EU representatives, because Turkey has been a candidate country for the EU since 1999 and must meet accession criteria for press freedom.
Laura Batalla, secretary-general of the European Parliament Turkey Forum, said Gursel’s release was a sign of hope to other imprisoned journalists.
“Justice should be applied fairly and impartially in the trials of all those accused. The space for freedom of speech is worryingly shrinking in Turkey and it needs to be protected now more than ever,” she told Arab News.
Before Monday’s trial, pro-government newspapers Star and Aksam reported on Twitter that all the Cumhuriyet journalists would remain in prison. Both newspapers deleted the tweets, but the court lodged a criminal complaint against them.


Emmanuel Macron loses cool with Israeli security in ‘Chirac moment’ at Jerusalem church

Updated 5 min 43 sec ago

Emmanuel Macron loses cool with Israeli security in ‘Chirac moment’ at Jerusalem church

  • Israeli security forces pushed past the French detail and were first to enter the Church of Saint Anne, which is French state property
  • Wednesday’s tense scenes recalled a 1996 Jerusalem visit by late former president Chirac

JERUSALEM: When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday, he also trod in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, Jacques Chirac, by engaging in a heated argument with Israeli security.

The altercation broke out when Israeli security forces pushed past the French detail and were first to enter the Church of Saint Anne, which is French state property.

“Everybody knows the rules. I don’t like what you did in front of me,” an animated Macron loudly told the Israeli personnel, speaking in English, in the crush to enter the building, which remains French territory under international treaties.

“Go out — outside please!” he added in a raised voice in scenes captured in video footage that quickly spread on social media.

The Roman Catholic church, located at the start of Via Dolorosa in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, has been part of France’s territories in the Holy Land since the 1850s.

The rules that have been in place “for centuries,” Macron told the Israeli officers, “will not change with me, I can tell you, OK? So everybody, respect the rules.”

Macron will on Thursday attend a ceremony to commemorate the liberation 75 years ago of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp in what was then occupied Poland.

Wednesday’s tense scenes recalled a 1996 Jerusalem visit by late former president Chirac during which he also lost his cool with Israeli security agents who were pressing him to move on.

Chirac heatedly told them their actions were a “provocation” and angrily asked: “What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France, is that what you want?”