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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Turkish Journalist Nedim Şener Thanks IPI Members for Support

Letter Comes Amid Reports of Threatening Twitter Message, New Investigation of Ahmet Şık 

By: Steven M. Ellis, IPI Press Freedom Adviser for Europe & North America

From L to R: Freed journalist Nedim Şener, IPI Turkish National Committee Secretary Yurdanur Atadan and IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie at Şener's home in Istanbul on Mar. 13, 2012. Photo: IPI.

VIENNA, Mar. 20, 2012 – Recently-released Turkish journalist Nedim Şener yesterday sent a letter to the International Press Institute (IPI) thanking the group and its members around the world for their ongoing support.

Şener, who was released from prison on Mar. 12 after spending more than a year in custody on charges that he supported an alleged coup plot, described the support he received from IPI and its members around the world as his greatest source of strength “during those hard days”.

The journalist and nine of his colleagues still face charges in the Oda TV trial, named after a nationalist news website that has been critical of the government and its investigation of the alleged “Ergenekon” plot by secularists and ultra-nationalists to overthrow the government of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). If convicted, Şener could be sentenced to seven-and-a-half to 15 years in prison.

The full text of Şener’s letter, translated into English, is below.

A court in Istanbul last week ordered Şener, journalist Ahmet Şık and two writers for Oda TV – Sait Çakır and Coskun Musluk – released pending trial, reportedly based on the length of time they had already spent in prison and the low risk of their being able to tamper with evidence in the case. The court last month ordered the release of fellow defendant Doğan Yurdakul, 66, a journalist and author, for health reasons. However, five other journalists charged in the case remain imprisoned. The next hearing in the trial is set for June 18.

According to news website Bianet, 104 journalists still remain imprisoned in Turkey following last week’s release of Şener and the others.

Şener’s letter to IPI came amid reports of a message on micro-blogging website Twitter warning of an alleged plot to kill him and Şık. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said yesterday that someone using the pseudonym “Faiz Düsmani” (Enemy of Interest), on Mar. 16 posted the message: “Attention, attention. I warn the government and those that can should also inform it. Ergenekon is planning to assassinate Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener. [The organization] is going to kill them and then blame the [Fethullah Gülen religious] community.”

Many of the defendants in the Oda TV trial have been critical of the Gülen movement and its influence in Turkey.

In other news, an Istanbul prosecutor this week launched an investigation against Şık over comments he made as he left prison on Mar. 12. Şık reportedly said: “The police, prosecutors and judges who set up and carried out this conspiracy will enter this prison. Justice will come when they enter here. Those men connected to religious communities and gangs will enter here.” Reports indicate that the prosecutor was looking into Şık’s comments as an alleged threat against judges and prosecutors that depicted them as targets for terrorist organisations.

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Nedim Sener’s letter:

With my thanks to those loyal friends of the truth.

All of us remain traumatized by the murder of our colleague and brother, Hrant Dink, the owner of the Agos Newspaper. The state officials who were supposed to solve the murder hid the truth with lies. The executive branch of the Turkish Republic – the government – as well as the legislature – Parliament – and the judiciary all failed in illuminating the Dink murder. Only the fourth power of democracy, the media, did its duty to highlight the Dink murder. As a result of this plot, and to pay the price, I was at Silivri Prison for 375 days.

During those hard days my staying power was my loyalty to the truth. The International Press Institute (IPI), which recognised my loyalty and supported me from the very moment I was arrested to the day I was released from prison, was my greatest power. As a member of the IPI family, honouring the values and opinions of my family is very important for me. I thank the IPI family, with members all over the world, for supporting me. Their efforts for freedom, not only mine but also the freedom of my other colleagues, will be embedded in history.

At this point, I wish to express my gratitude to IPI Executive Director Alison McKenzie, who stood by my wife as she cried when I was arrested and who was with my smiling wife when I was released. She honoured us. I thank IPI’s staff, IPI’s Executive Board and [members of IPI’s Turkish National Committee] Ferai Tınç, Haluk Şahin, Kadri Gürsel, Doğan Satmış and Yurdanur Atadan. I also thank – for myself and on behalf of my wife and my daughter – my colleagues who signed the petition for my release and my colleagues and brothers and sisters all over the world who pursue the truth and who work for the freedom of the world.

Yours respectfully,
Nedim Şener