9 March 2018 — Today, PEN Belgium/Flanders, PEN Nederland and PEN International observed the sixth hearing in the criminal proceedings against the journalists and staff of Cumhuriyet newspaper. The hearing was set in the court house of Silivri Prison, 60 km outside of Istanbul.
‘We welcome the release of Ahmet Sik and Murat Sabuncu after more than 500 days in pre-trial detention. At the same time, the injustice of Akin Atalay’s continued detention is haunting. We call for his freedom and dismissal of the charges’, said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.
The hearing turned on witness testimony. They presented varied but consistently partial views on the editorial line of the Cumhuriyet daily, supported by scant objective proof.
‘Even disregarding the witnesses’ obvious bias, it is unclear how their opinions can constitute evidence supporting the terrorism charges faced by the defendants’, said Isabelle Rossaert, Vice President of PEN Belgium/Flanders.
During closing defence statements, the judge repeatedly cut off the lawyers, supposedly due to time restrictions although throughout the day, many witnesses spoke at length without interruption.
‘Considering the seriousness of the charges and the lengthy sentences they potentially carry, allowing a full defence is essential to ensure a fair trial’, said Froukje Santing of PEN Nederland.
In addition to international and domestic civil society organisations and the Istanbul Bar Association, also Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms and several EU diplomatic representatives observed the proceedings. The next hearing is set for 16 March and will again take place at Silivri Prison’s courthouse.
For further information please contact Laurens Hueting who observed today's proceedings in Silivri, firstname.lastname@example.org.