As trial begins for the journalists of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, PEN Germany calls upon President Erdogan to release them, along with all political prisoners.
In an open letter to Turkish President Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the German branch of the PEN (Poets, Essayists Novelists) organization on Monday called for the release of the 17 executives and journalists of the government-critical newspaper Cumhuriyet, along with "all unjustly incarcerated political prisoners" of the country.
After spending more than 250 days behind bars, the Cumhuriyet employees are now beginning trial in Istanbul. They face terrorism-related charges and are threatened with up to 43 years in jail, according to Reporters Without Borders.
In the open letter, PEN Geramny President Regula Venske reminded that July 24 is Press Freedom Day in Turkey, in remembrance of the abolition of censorship on that same date in 1908.
Cumhuriyet is the oldest newspaper in modern Turkey. It has survived five military coups since 1924. Throughout its history, many journalists have been imprisoned, tortured or assassinated, but "there has never been such a concerted effort to completely eliminate the newspaper. This attack on 'Cumhuriyet' is clearly a political attack and it targets directly freedom of the press and the secular Turkish Republic," wrote Venske.
In the letter, Venske called on Erdogan and Yilirim to "show courage, decency and greatness," adding that they should prove their love for their country by removing the state of emergency and ending their policy of division between Turks and Kurds as well as Turks living in Germany.
The German branch of PEN is one of 150 organizations worldwide associated with PEN International.
eg/kbm (epd, dpa)