In response to the unprecedented threat against the rights to freedom of expression and fair trials, ARTICLE 19 and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on monitoring trials in Turkey.
As part of that agreement, today ARTICLE 19 and BHRC are monitoring what is expected to be the final hearing in the trial against columnists and journalists writing for Zaman newspaper at the Serious Crimes Court in Istanbul. The defendants face various terror-related charges, with five facing aggravated life-sentences. A ruling is expected on Friday 8 June 2018.
Turkey is the world leader in imprisoning journalists and media workers: there are currently around 170 journalists in jail, many of whom face terror charges. Under a state of emergency introduced after the 2016 failed coup attempt, over 100,000 civil servants, military officers, judges, teachers and academics have been summarily dismissed and taken into custody, due to alleged association with terrorist organisations. This includes 30% of Turkish judges and prosecutors, exerting a chilling effect on the judiciary. Constitutional reforms allow the President to control judicial appointments, further jeopardising the independence of the judiciary.
The agreement between the two organisations seeks to bring together ARTICLE 19’s expertise on the right to freedom of expression and BHRC’s expertise on fair trials to draw attention Turkeys use of the Courts to silence those exercising their right to freedom of expression.