The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, expressed profound dismay over today’s decision by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Cassation upholding a nearly nine-year jail sentence given to journalist Nedim Türfent.

Türfent, a Kurdish reporter at the now-banned Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was arrested in the eastern city of Van on May 13, 2016, and has been behind bars ever since. In December 2017, he was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on charges of membership of a terrorist organization based on evidence consisting of his journalistic work. Türfent’s detention and trial were marred by egregious violations of due process – Türfent was denied the right to appear personally in court – as well as allegations that witness statements were extracted under torture.

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Cassation communicated its verdict upholding the sentence today.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Nedim Türfent’s conviction effectively endorses Turkey’s arbitrary application of terrorism-related offenses to persecute critical journalists and silence dissenting voices”, IPI Turkey Programme Manager Oliver Money-Kyrle said. “It is extremely troubling that the Supreme Court has failed to uphold the basic principles of law and procedure that were trampled on in Nedim’s case. Turkey must free Nedim Türfent and compensate him for the egregious rights violations he has suffered.”

IPI and other international groups have repeatedly called for Türfent’s release and campaigned to raise international awareness and solidarity. IPI has exchanged several letters with Türfent from prison.

Last month, IPI, along with several other international press freedom and journalist organizations, underscored the need to uphold international standards on judicial practice and anti-terror law during a meeting with the Supreme Court of Cassation in Ankara as part of an international mission.

Lawyers for Türfent from the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) had previously lodged applications to the Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

“This decision shows us that, while a judicial reform package is being discussed in Turkey, the core problem is not about reforms but the implementations”, Veysel Ok, one of the lawyers representing Türfent and co-chair of MLSA, told IPI. “Despite witness statements’ being withdrawn and changed based on torture allegations, and clearly stating they have signed those statements accusing Nedim by force, Nedim is punished for reporting on Kurdish issues. And now the Supreme Court of Cassation is a part of this wrong, unjust verdict. We will continue our legal fight, as Nedim’s application is pending at the ECtHR. We hope that this mistake will be overturned at some point.”

The international mission last month urged the Constitutional Court to review Türfent’s case with priority.