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Turkish court ruling keeps novelist, linguist in prison

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The file photo shows Turkish police standing in front of a courthouse in Istanbul.

The file photo shows Turkish police standing in front of a courthouse in Istanbul.

A court in Turkey has ruled that prominent novelist Asli Erdogan and linguist Necmiye Alpay be kept in prison, drawing the wrath of their supporters in the wake of earlier reports that the two would be released.

Erdogan and Alpay were jailed in August for cooperating with a pro-Kurdish newspaper.

On Wednesday, the court ordered the release of the two in connection with charges of seeking to harm Turkey’s national unity, Erdal Dogan, Erdogan’s lawyer, said outside Bakirkoy women’s prison on the outskirts of Istanbul.

However, the lawyer said their arrest continues as the court had ruled that they remain in pre-trial detention on separate charges.

Erdal also stated that the ruling was “saddening” and that Erdogan had not been informed of the matter yet. “We will inform her when we visit her tomorrow or the next day.”

The initial release order had prompted Turkish media to report that the pair would be freed.

Supporters of Erdogan reportedly rushed to Bakirkoy jail after hearing the initial news of release but the confusing verdict let them down.

“I happily rushed here to see her but now I am very upset,” said Ramazan, a supporter.

Local media said Erdogan was to stand trial in December.

Meanwhile, the UN rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, said in a message posted on Twitter that he was “disappointed” that the two were not released from prison. “Turkey should release them and many others.”

Turkish prosecutors have sought long jail terms or life sentences for nine staff members of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, including Erdogan and Alpay, on charges of belonging to a terrorist group.

A court in Istanbul has ordered the temporary closure of the paper, accusing it of spreading terrorist propaganda and “acting as the de facto news outlet” for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Human Rights Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, says Turkish journalists face “constant threats and retribution for their work, and are often harassed and prosecuted under criminal laws designed to stifle government criticism.”

Southeastern Turkey has been the scene of deadly fighting between Kurdish militants and the army over the past months. The fighting escalated after Turkey declared the collapse of years-long peace negotiations with the Kurds last year and began imposing restrictions in Kurdish-dominated areas.

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