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Turkey's highest court says journalists' human rights violated

Constitutional Court rules authorities violated freedom of expression of three journalists critical of president after 2016 coup attempt
Kadri Gursel, who was released from prison pending his trial, had been freed due to time served in February (AFP)

Turkey's highest court has ruled that authorities had violated the human rights of three journalists critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following an attempted coup in 2016.

The Constitutional Court (AYM) said on Thursday that the right to freedom of expression, freedom and personal security of journalists Kadri Gursel, Ali Bulac and Murak Aksoy had been violated.

At the same time, the court rejected the appeals of four other journalists, the AFP news agency reported, including renowned novelist Ahmet Altan.

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Fourteen staff of newspaper Cumhuriyet, one of the few remaining voices critical of the government, were sentenced last April to jail terms of up to eight years and one month on charges of terrorism and supporting US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for organising the coup attempt.

The defendants had been released pending an appeals process.

Six staff were sent to jail last week to serve out the remainder of their sentences, two of their lawyers said.

Gursel, a former journalist at Cumhuriyet who was released from prison pending his trial, had been freed due to time served in February, the Reuters news agency said.

Aksoy was detained in September 2016 and sentenced to more than two years in prison last March.

Bulac, a former columnist for the Gulenist Zaman newspaper, was arrested on 31 July 2016 and sentenced to eight years and nine months in jail on membership of a terrorist organisation in July 2018.

The AYM will evaluate appeals by three other journalists on Friday, Turkish broadcaster NTV said.

Human rights organisations have voiced increasing concern about media freedom in Turkey, accusing Erdogan of using the abortive putsch as a pretext to quash dissent.

Erdogan and his government blame Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, for orchestrating the attempted coup. Gulen has denied involvement.

Since then, more than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 civil servants and military personnel have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.

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