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16 June

European Court inquires Turkey about journalists’ cases

The Court directs eight questions to Turkey about imprisoned journalists’ applications, including one on whether detentions are political


 
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has communicated applications of seven imprisoned journalists, including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and Şahin Alpay, to Turkey.
 
The Strasbourg court, which has earlier decided to give priority treatment to the seven applications, sent eight questions to the Turkish government, giving it until October 4 to reply to them.
 
In one of these questions, the ECtHR inquired whether the detentions are politically motivated. Referring to one of its past verdicts against Azerbaijan, the court asked whether the deprivation of liberty imposed on the seven journalists -- Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, Nazlı Ilıcak, Murat Aksoy, Atilla Taş and Ali Bulaç -- was applied for a purpose other than that for which it was prescribed in line with Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
 
In the mentioned case, the case of Rasul Jafarov v. Azerbaijan concluded in March 2016, the Strasbourg court ruled that the arrest and detention in 2014 of the applicant on charges of “illegal entrepreneurship, large-scale tax evasion and abuse of power” were in violation of Articles 5 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
 
The court said at that time that the actual purpose of the arrest and detention of Jafarov, a known human rights defender, were to “silence and punish him for his activities as a human rights defender,” noting that Jafarov’s imprisonment “had occurred in the general context of an increasingly harsh and restrictive legislative regulation of NGO activity.”
 
“… there had been numerous statements by high-ranking officials and articles published in pro-Government media which had accused local NGOs and their leaders, including Mr Jafarov, of being traitors and foreign agents; and several other notable human rights activists, who had also cooperated with international
organisations protecting human rights, had similarly been arrested and charged, the court further said.
 
The ECtHR has recently communicated the application on behalf of 10 executives and columnists of Cumhuriyet daily to Turkey and asked Turkey to reply to its questions about the application until October 2.
 
The questions directed to the Turkish government about applications of the seven imprisoned journalists, listed in a note sent by the ECtHR to the lawyer for Altan brothers and Şahin Alpay, Veysel Ok, are, in summary, as follows:
 
1) Have the Applicants exhausted all local remedies, in line with Article 35(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights?
 
2) Do the Applicants have access to an effective procedure by which they can contest the legality of their detention, in line with Article 5(4)? More specifically:
    a) Does the inability of the Applicants and their representatives to access the investigation file against them inhibit their ability to effectively contest the decisions to detain them and to continue their pre-trial detention?
    b) Does the procedure for appealing to the Constitutional Court, through which the Applicants have sought to challenge the legality of their pre-trial detention, conform with the requirements of Article 5(4)? In particular, is the length of this procedure compatible with that Article's requirement of "speediness"?
 
3) Were the Applicants detained in contravention of Article 5(1)? More specifically, was the evidence contained in the investigation file at the time of arrest sufficient to persuade an objective observer that the Applicants had committed the offences of which they were charged?
 
4) Have the domestic courts given relevant and sufficient reasons to justify the Applicant's pre-trial detention, in line with Article 5(3)? In addition, is the length of the Applicant's pre-trial detention compatible with the same Article's requirement for a "prompt" trial?
 
5) Were the Applicants immediately brought before a judge, in line with Article 5(3)?
 
6) Do the Applicants have an enforceable right to compensation, under Article 5(5), for their detention, which they deem contrary to Articles 5(1), 5(2) and 5(4)?
 
7) Has there been a restriction of the Applicants' freedom of expression? If so, was this restriction necessary and prescribed by law, in line with Article 10(2) of the Convention?
 
8) Was the deprivation of liberty imposed on the Applicants, allegedly in accordance with Article 5, applied for a purpose other than that for which it was prescribed, in contravention of Article 18 of the Convention (see Rasul Jafarov v. Azerbaijan)?

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