Turkey’s Top Court Rules That Two Jailed Journalists Be Released

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday ruled that two jailed journalists be released, local media reported, a decision lawyers said could set a precedent for dozens of other reporters jailed in a widespread crackdown under President Tayyip Erdogan.

The Constitutional Court ordered the release of Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay, ruling their rights had been violated, CNN Turk and other local media reported.

Officials at the Constitutional Court were not immediately available for comment. Lawyers for the journalists did not immediately respond for requests for comment.

The two journalists, who have both been in prison for more than a year, were jailed in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup, when president Tayyip Erdogan launched a widespread crackdown that critics say is being used to stifle dissent.

Both Altan and Alpay have been accused of links to terrorist groups and attempting to overthrow the government, charges they have denied.

Since the July 2016 coup attempt, Turkey has jailed more than 50,000 people and closed more than 130 media outlets. Around 160 journalists have been jailed, according to the Turkish Journalists’ Association. International journalism groups say that Turkey is now the world’s largest jailer of journalists.

Many of the jailed reporters have been charged with spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the abortive putsch.

Erdogan has said that some journalists helped nurture terrorists through their writing. “Terror doesn’t form by itself,” he said. “Terror and terrorists have gardeners. These gardeners are those people viewed as thinkers,” he told a joint news conference with France’s president Emmanuel Macron.

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