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.


Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

Updated 47 min 53 sec ago

Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

  • Allegations have been widely circulating on social media detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man
  • Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Saturday arrested a man who allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls and women, in a case that has sparked outrage online, a security source said.
Allegations have been widely circulating on social media since Wednesday detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man.
One allegation claimed that he attempted to abuse a 14-year-old girl.
“The person accused of harassing the girls has been arrested and will be facing the prosecution following the allegations carried on social media,” the security source said.
“Those affected should submit formal reports of the harm they endured,” the source added.
The source did not identify the suspect.
According to the social media reports, the first of which was published on an Instagram account, the abuse had been going on since at least 2018.
Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) lodged an official complaint with the public prosecutor to investigate the allegations on Saturday.
“The NCW has followed the social media account on Instagram, which was launched by girls and women complaining that a man raped some of them and sexually assaulted and harassed others,” it said on Facebook.
It also said that several victims, who reached out to the council, recounted that the man “blackmailed and threatened to defame them using photos and clips documenting his heinous crimes.”
The council urged the women to submit official complaints to the prosecutor.
Some online reports suggested the perpetrator was a university student.
The American University in Cairo acknowledged the suspect had studied there but said he left the university in 2018.
He “is not a current student at the American University in Cairo,” a statement said.
Sexual harassment is highly prevalent in Egypt.
United Nations surveys have found that most Egyptian women have been subject to harassment, ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping.
Egyptian authorities have criminalized sexual harassment since 2014, but many women complain that the problem remains rampant.