Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart and several of his colleagues from Cumhuriyet newspaper have now spent over six months in prison, joining about 130 other journalists similarly detained in the media crackdown following Turkey’s attempted coup last July. In advance of the NATO summit in Brussels this week, Cartoonists Rights Network International sent an open letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and European leaders advocating for justice on the imprisoned journalists’ behalf.
Kart and his colleagues were held for five months before they were finally charged with supporting Kurdish militants and the Gulenist movement last month. The charges specifically against Kart are “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust.” Organizations that advocate for press freedom, including the International Press Institute and the Committee to Protect Journalists, say that the charges are baseless and simply provide cover for Erdoğan to silence accurate coverage of his regime.
In addition to Erdoğan, CRNI’s letter is addressed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council of Europe President Donald Tusk. Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1949, and has applied to enter the European Union over which the European Commission presides. The letter notes in particular that the journalists’ lengthy pre-trial detention contravenes case law from the European Court of Human Rights:
Last week they spent their two hundredth consecutive day in custody. When the first hearing of their trial takes place, scheduled for July 24th, they will be approaching the end of their ninth month. And their circumstances are far from unique; Amnesty International’s figures indicate that a third of the world’s imprisoned journalists are in Turkey.
By any measure of jurisprudence the protracted detention of these journalists constitute a violation of rights accorded to those awaiting trial.
Furthermore we reject the charges leveled against Kart and his colleagues, who have done nothing more than pursue careers in journalism.
Read the full letter from CRNI President Joel Pett here.
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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.