Turkish trial of journalists raises human rights concerns

December 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1122/Turkish-trial-of-journalists-raises-human-rights-concerns

Turkish journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener appeared in court today in a trial that has some questioning the health of Turkey’s democracy, long considered a model in the Muslim world.

By Alexander Christie-Miller, Correspondent / November 22, 2011

ISTANBUL

Several Turkish journalists appeared in court today for the start of a trial that has sparked fears of growing authoritarianism in the Muslim-majority democracy.

Two investigative reporters who had been writing about judicial and police corruption are among those implicated in the alleged conspiracy to overthrow the country’s Islamic-rooted government.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has frequently been praised by the United States andEuropean Union for enacting judicial reforms and wresting power from the country’s once-dominant military. However in the past four years, hundreds of people have been arrested in connection with a series of sprawling terror investigations that critics claim are a tool for stifling dissent.

“Anyone opposing the government is going to prison, and all the others are now censoring themselves,” says Yonca Sik, the wife of Ahmet Sik, one of the journalists charged. “If people are satisfied with this democracy then I wish them luck and happiness, but it is not my definition of democracy.”

The case, in which 13 people face trial, was adjourned until Dec. 26 after the defense requested the replacement of the presiding judge, since he is a plaintiff in another case against one of the defendants.

Accused of spreading propaganda for the “Ergenekon” gang – an alleged hard-line secularist terror group – their case forms part of a far larger investigation in which some 400 people are on trial.

Mayor, lawyers also charged

Around 600 more people, including city mayors, lawyers, political activists, and more journalists, are charged in relation to another probe targeting the civilian wing of the Kurdish separatist rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party.

Last month, a prominent publisher and free speech activist, Ragip Zarakolu, and an Istanbul-based political science professor were among those arrested.

According to Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch, the cases expose serious shortcomings in the Turkish judicial system.

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