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After a 6 year ordeal an Istanbul court on 12 April ordered the acquittal of 13 suspects, including journalists and writers, charged with membership of the Ergenekon organisation in the OdaTV case. Among those acquitted is journalist Muyesser Yildiz who was adopted in a solidarity move by the NUJ in 2012. According to press reports the court unanimously acquitted the suspects including journalists Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Soner Yalçın, Yalçın Küçük and former police chief Hanefi Avcı, based on their pleas, expert reports, witness statements and ‘the wider context of the file’.

It is also reported that those acquitted have the right to file a claim for compensation within one year of the verdict being given. The court also ordered a legal complaint to be filed against those who created fake digital evidence and sent it to the computers of the suspects, along with public officials who acted in cooperation during the investigation process.

The case was initiated in 2011 after police teams raided the suspects’ addresses, and came at a time when all suspects had been making broadcasts and writing articles criticising the Ergenekon trials, which saw the arrest of over 200 suspects in a decade-old legal battle over allegations that they were aiming to overthrow the Turkish government. The suspects in the Ergenekon case were charged with membership of an illegal organisation, trying to create an environment of chaos, inciting people to hostility and hatred, obtaining and revealing secret documents, attempting to influence a fair trial, and illegally recording personal data.

From the start the journalists were supported by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its affiliate in Turkey the Turkish Journalist Union (TGS). Representing the EFJ and NUJ I have over the past 6 years been a regular attender at their hearings in Istanbul, some of which bordered on farce! Regular reports have also appeared in this blog over the past 5 years.

Following the acquittal ruling journalist and writer Amhet Şık said the case should be a lesson for judicial authorities who prepared the recent indictment against Cumhuriyet (an opposition newspaper) columnists and executives.

“This case should be a lesson for those who wrote the Cumhuriyet indictment. Those judges and prosecutors will also come here. We will present a life that will make the dreams of our children come true,” he said. Şık had been tried without arrest in the OdaTV case, but he is currently in jail in a separate case, having been arrested on 30 December 2016 on charges of “making propaganda” for the outlawed PKK and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ).

In addition there are some 150 journalists and media workers still in prison, who like the OdaTV media workers are being victimised by the state for just doing their jobs as journalists. Turkey remains the world’s biggest prison for journalists. There must be no letting up in our solidarity, no matter what the outcome of the 16 April referendum turns out to be.

Additional material from Hurriyet Daily News