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Journalist prosecuted for reporting on intel officer’s death in Libya awarded damages

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The Turkish government has been ordered to pay TL 25,000 ($1,350) in damages to a journalist who was jailed for more than three months and tried due to his report on a Turkish intelligence officer killed in Libya in 2020, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Wednesday.

A high criminal court in İstanbul in September 2020 sentenced five journalists to three years, nine months and four years, eight months in prison on charges of “disclosing information related to national security” and “disclosing documents pertaining to intelligence operations.”

Journalist Barış Terkoğlu, the then-Odatv managing editor and current Cumhuriyet daily columnist who had been kept in pretrial detention for more than three months, was acquitted of the charges in the same trial along with an employee of the municipality where the intelligence officer’s funeral took place, who was accused of providing pictures to the journalists of the funeral of the deceased intelligence officer.

The journalists published reports and tweeted about the secretly held funeral of the agent from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed during a mission in Libya.

Turkey had provided military support and training in Libya to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), helping it fend off a months-long assault on Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces led by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Terkoğlu took his unjust detention to the İstanbul 4th High Criminal Court, which has ruled for the payment of damages to the journalist.

Commenting on the court’s decision, Terkoğlu said the ruling shows that the state has acknowledged having made a mistake in his and his colleagues’ prosecution.

Terkoğlu’s lawyer, Kazım Yiğit Akalın, also said the amount of damages is far from sufficient for compensating the journalist for what he endured during his detention but that it’s important because it means the state admits its mistake and apologizes.

A regional appeals court in İstanbul in February upheld the prison sentences handed down to the other journalists, but they were not required to serve their sentences, with some of them placed on judicial probation after a brief stay in prison, due to the length of their sentences and pandemic measures taken by the Turkish government aimed at reducing prison populations.

Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

Dozens of critical journalists were jailed in Turkey, while many media outlets were closed down in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016.

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