Journalists in PrisonNews

ECtHR requests Turkish government’s defense in the case of İdris Sayılğan

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ECtHR requests the government’s defense in a Kurdish journalist’s case for the first time since the coup attempt of 15 July 2016

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) requested the Turkish government’s defense in the case of journalist İdris Sayılğan, who has been behind bars at Trabzon Prison for over 2 years. Sayılğan is represented by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

Since shuttered Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) former reporter Sayılğan was arrested in October 2016 on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist organization.” In December 2018, the ECtHR announced that they would review Sayılğan’s case with priority and fast track the application.

In its communique, the ECtHR asked about Sayılğan’s application to the Constitutional Court, specifically inquiring if the duration of this procedure has been compatible with the “short period” condition provided for in Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which secures the right to liberty and security.

The court also asked if Sayılğan’s remand in custody pending trial constitutes a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention, further inquiring whether the pieces of evidence included in the file at the moment of detaining the interested party enough to convince an impartial observer that he might have committed the offence that he was accused of.

Question on political imprisonment

In another question addressed to the Turkish government, the ECtHR asked if Sayılğan’s freedom of speech was infringed, and if it was, whether this violation was provided for by law and justified within the meaning of Article 10(2) ECHR, which protects the right to freedom of expression.

The court also asked whether the privation of freedom imposed on the petitioner in this case, allegedly in accordance with Article 5 of the ECHR, enforced regardless of Article 18 of the Convention, for a purpose other than the one contemplated by said article, which regulates the limitation on use of restriction on rights. This means that the Court is inquiring whether Sayılğan’s detainment is caused by any political motives.

MLSA Co-Director Veysel Ok, who is among the lawyers who drafted the application, stated: “This is the first defense that the ECtHR requested from the Turkish government in the case of a Kurdish journalist since July 15, 2016. That’s why this is an invaluable development. I find it extremely important that the Court decided to ask about Article 18, in addition to Articles 5 and 10, which means that the Court is inquiring whether Sayılğan is a political prisoner. If the Court rules that this is the case, this would be an important precedent for journalism in Turkey. We will present our own defense following the government’s reply. We expect international organizations to intervene in this case in the future. We hope that the Court will announce a judgment that would provide a precedent for imprisoned journalists in Turkey.”

Charges against Sayılğan

Since shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Sayılğan was arrested and sent to Trabzon Prison on 24 October 2016 on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda.” On 25 January 2019, Sayılğan was handed down a 8 year and 3 month prison sentence by Muş 2nd High Criminal Court. The only pieces of evidence that the indictment lists are Sayılğan’s news stories and his correspondence with his news sources.

ECtHR reached a judgement for journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan’s applications on 20 March 2018, ruling that Turkey had violated their rights. Since the coup attempt of July 15, Alpay and Altan have been the only journalists from Turkey whose applications the Court ruled a decision about.