Release of three Turkish journalists sentenced to prison for covering Libya – lawyer

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ANKARA, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Three Turkish journalists were released on Tuesday, hours after they were jailed for covering the deaths of Turkish intelligence officers in Libya in 2020, a lawyer and opposition member said. .

In September 2020, five journalists were found guilty of revealing information and documents related to intelligence activities. They were kept in detention for up to six months during their trial.

The charges related to articles and social media posts published shortly after President Tayyip Erdogan said in February 2020 that Turkey had “several martyrs” in Libya.

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Turkey has provided military support and training to Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord, and helped it fight off a months-long assault on the capital Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar. .

Two journalists were sentenced in September 2020 to three years and nine months in prison, while three were sentenced to four years and eight months.

The defendants denied the charges, saying they had done their job as journalists. Their sentences were finalized after an appeals court denied their request on January 28.

The journalists’ lawyer said on Tuesday that Murat Agirel, a reporter for the Yeni Cag newspaper, and Baris Pehlivan, a reporter for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, had been released.

Alpay Antmen, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said journalist Hulya Kilinc had been released, but it was unclear whether the other two journalists had been detained.

Turkish courts do not usually uphold rulings to the media and there was no word on Tuesday’s case from the government.

According to the indictment, Agirel was the first to reveal the identities of the intelligence officers, sharing names and photos on Twitter and referring to Erdogan’s comments.

Celal Ulgen, another lawyer handling the case, said the sentences were “an intimidation directed at the whole of society”.

Turkey is one of the biggest jailers of journalists in the world.

Critics say Erdogan has eroded the independence of the courts and the media since a crackdown following a 2016 coup attempt. Officials say the courts are autonomous and arrests were needed in due to security risks.

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Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Daren Butler and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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