The "Cumhuriyet" trial: background and resources

This article was first published at the website of ECPMF's partner the International Press Institute

On Monday, 11th September, the trial of journalists from the independent daily newspaper "Cumhuriyet" is set to resume in Turkey. The defendants face up to 43 years in prison on charges over paper's news coverage and criticism of the government policy. 

Scene from the Scene at the first "Cumhuriyet" trial in July 2017 (By Murat Başol)

The trial of journalists from independent daily newspaper "Cumhuriyet" is set to resume in Turkey on Sept. 11, in a one-day hearing to be held in the Silivri Prison, on the outskirts of Istanbul, where four of the defendants have remained in pre-trial detention since 2016.

Prosecutors are demanding prison terms of up to 43 years on charges that the paper’s news reports and its criticism of government policy supported terrorist groups, including the movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen – whom Turkey’s government blames for the July 2016 coup attempt – as well as outlawed militant Kurdish and leftist groups.

See a full list of the defendants and the charges they face

However, the case focuses almost entirely on news reports and social media posts, and on innocuous or unavoidable contacts – and even attempts at contact to which the accused did not respond – with individuals who had a secretive app on their phones said to have been used by Gülen’s followers.

Read Cumhuriyet’s rebuttal of the case against its journalists and executives

IPI and other international observers maintain that the case is politically motivated. They argue that it is intended to silence Cumhuriyet, one of the country’s few remaining opposition voices, and send a chilling message to others who might dare to publish news or criticism deemed unwelcome by the ruling political establishment headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Read the ‘Joint Statement by International Observers of Proceedings in the Cumhuriyet Trial’

Defendants imprisoned in the case have effectively faced punishment without conviction, having been held for months in pre-trial detention with arbitrary limits on outside contact and interference with their right to mount a legal defence.

With 171 journalists behind bars, Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, the vast majority of whom were detained in a sweeping crackdown on dissent amid an ongoing state of emergency declared after the 2016 coup attempt.

The state of emergency, which has accelerated the government’s consolidation of control over almost every segment of society, has led to the dismissal or detention of over 100,000 civil servants, and the closure of some 170 media outlets and hundreds of civil society organisations by decree.

Additional resources:

Defence statement by Publications Consultant & Columnist Kadri Gürsel

Defence statement by Cumhuriyet Executive Board Chair/CEO Akın Atalay

Defence statement by Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu

Defence statement by Cumhuriyet Reporter Ahmet Şık

Declaration of the March 2017 International Press Freedom Mission to Turkey

Recent IPI activity on Turkey