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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has requested the government of Turkey’s defense in the case of journalist İdris Sayılğan, who has been behind bars in Trabzon Prison for over 2 years and represented by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
Closed Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) former reporter İdris Sayılğan was arrested in October 2016 on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and “membership of a terrorist organization.”
In December 2018, the ECtHR announced that they would review Sayılğan’s case with priority and would fast track the application.
In its communique, the ECtHR requested information about Sayılğan’s application to the Constitutional Court, specifically inquiring whether the duration of this procedure has been compatible with the “short period” condition as per the 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 arrest pending trial constitutes a violation of the Article 5/1 of the Convention, further inquiring whether the evidence included in the file at the moment of detaining him was enough to convince an impartial observer that he committed the offense charged.
Question on political imprisonment
In another question addressed to the government, the ECtHR asked if Sayılğan’s freedom of expression was violated, and if it was, whether this violation was provided for by law and justified within the meaning of Article 10/2 of the ECHR, which protects 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.
‘It would be an important precedent’
MLSA Co-Director Veysel Ok, who is among the lawyers who drafted the application, stated the following:
“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.”
Closed Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Sayılğan was arrested and sent to Trabzon Prison on October 24, 2016 on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terror propaganda.” On January 25, 2019, Sayılğan was sentenced to 8 years and 3 months in prison by the Muş 2nd Heavy Penal Court. The only pieces of evidence 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 March 20, 2018, ruling that Turkey had violated their rights. Since the coup attempt on July 15, these Alpay and Altan have been the only journalists from Turkey whose applications the Court ruled a decision about. (HA/SD)