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The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed the release from prison of noted Turkish columnist Murat Aksoy on January 4 to serve out the remaining months of a two-year jail term on probation.

Aksoy, a former columnist for the now-closed newspaper Yeni Şafak, was arrested on September 3, 2016, and accused of aiding and abetting the movement led by exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey blames for the July 2016 coup attempt. He was released from detention on October 24, 2017, after 419 days in pre-trial detention. On March 8, 2018, Istanbul’s 25. High Criminal Court sentenced him to two years and one month in prison. An appeals court upheld the sentence last October. In November, Aksoy was rearrested and sent to Metris Prison in Istanbul.

The rearrest drew international attention given that, in Turkey, persons with less than 12 months left on a prison term are usually released to serve out the remainder on probation.

IPI representatives, including Sandy Bremner and Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, raised Aksoy’s case with Turkish justice ministry officials during a visit to the country in December. According to information obtained by IPI, prison officials explained Aksoy’s continued detention by claiming to be uncertain of the charges against him despite the existence of court documents.

“We welcome the belated release of Murat Aksoy, who is one of the hundreds of journalists in Turkey to have been jailed on unsubstantiated terrorist propaganda and membership charges”, IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford said. “While Mr. Aksoy should never have been jailed in the first place, we are glad that, in this case at least, Turkey has freed him from a further five months of arbitrary imprisonment.”

IPI closely monitors the press freedom situation in Turkey, including a register of all journalists currently behind bars and a list of court hearings. IPI’s Free Turkey Journalists website also hosts regular articles and news items on Turkey’s press freedom crisis. Besides intervening in individual cases and supporting applications of Turkey’s journalists to the European Court of Human Rights as a third party, IPI also monitors and supports wider issues of media freedom in Turkey. In 2018 IPI was awarded the Izmir Journalists’ Association Press Freedom Prize for its “I subscribe” campaign (www.isubscribe.media) to support independent newspapers in Turkey.