Journalists in PrisonNews

MLSA, MLDI take jailed journalist Sayılgan’s case to ECtHR



  • The first application of a Turkish journalist to the European Court of Human Rights was filed in collaboration with international lawyers.
  • News stories are the only evidence against the Kurdish journalist.

  • The application argues that there have been violations of his right to liberty, free-speech and a fair trial.



Turkish journalist İdris Sayılğan, who has spent the last two years in jail on terrorism charges, could be going to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after the Media and Law Studies Association collaborated with the London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative to apply for a hearing on his behalf.

İdris Sayılğan was accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda” based on his reporting on events in Muş province. He has been imprisoned since October 24 2016 in Trabzon Prison, which is 450 kilometres away from the Turkish court where his case was being heard.

Veysel Ok, Sayılğan’s lawyer and Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, demonstrated the significance of the case by observing that “This is the first time in Turkey that an ECtHR application for a journalist is being filed together with an international organization. We believe that collaboration and solidarity with international organizations add strength to ECtHR applications.”

Ok noted that no real progress had been made in Sayılğan’s case since his arrest in October 2016, adding that his client had not been able to attend any of the eight hearings that have so far taken place.

Ok went on to explain that “We have proven that İdris’s detention is unlawful before the Muş 2. High Criminal Court a number of times. Yet, the court has chosen not to release him. He hasn’t even once faced the judges who have put him on trial inside the courtroom. We applied to the Constitutional Court in July, but the high court has yet to take action regarding that application. That’s why we are now going to the ECtHR requesting a ‘priority’ review of İdris’s situation under Court Rule 41.”

Rule 41 allows for certain urgent cases to be given priority status and be brought before the ECtHR more rapidly.

Sayılğan’s application is similar to previous applications to the ECtHR filed by Turkish journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, who were detained as part of coup-related investigations in 2016. The ECtHR found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights in the cases of the two journalists, who have both since been released. “We expect a similar outcome from İdris’s application,” Ok noted.

Sayılğan’s legal team have based the application on an argument that his right to liberty and security (per Article 5 of the European Convention), his right to a fair trial (per Article 6), his right to freedom of expression (per Article 10) and his right to an effective remedy (per Article 13) have been violated.

Sayılğan was detained on 17 October 2016. He was initially kept at a police detention center in deplorable conditions for eight consecutive days. He was placed in pre-trial detention after his arraignment on 25 October. During his initial detention he was denied access to legal counsel or contact with his family.

Sayılğan’s indictment cited several news reports he published on local events in the predominantly Kurdish city of Muş, as well as transcripts of phone conversations he had with news sources.

The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for 24 December.

Updated: November 30 2018