January 12, 2016

Turkey responds to CoE on Keneş, admits journalist arrested for continuing to post tweets

A response recently sent to the Council of Europe (CoE) by Turkey concerning a case against former Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, who was jailed for four days last October for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said the journalist was arrested after he continued posting tweets.

The CoE shared a letter from the Permanent Representation of Turkey to the CoE, Erdoğan İşcan, on Keneş's case. It was in response to requests submitted by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Index on Censorship.

The ambassador said in the letter that Keneş was briefly detained on Oct. 8, 2015 on the charge of “defaming the President of the Turkish Republic by way of persistently posting tweets which exceeded the limits of criticism and insulting the honour and dignity of the person,” but his arrest was then “deemed unnecessary.”

“However, the suspect continued posting defamatory tweets,” the letter said, claiming that Keneş released a press statement which included threatening remarks. “On Oct. 10 2015, taking into account the intensity of criminal intent and recurrence of the act, the court deemed the conditional bail measures insufficient and decided to detain him on remand,” the ambassador said, arguing that the journalist was not arrested either for his criticism of the president or over a news report.

On Oct. 9, 2015 Keneş was taken by police from the headquarters of Today's Zaman and arrested on Oct. 19, 2015 on charges of “insulting” President Erdoğan in a series of tweets that the journalist said was simply him expressing a critical opinion. After being held in prison for five days, the İstanbul 8th Penal Court of Peace ruled to release Keneş on Oct. 14, 2015 pending trial.

His release was welcomed by senior European officials, including Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary-general of the CoE, who then said on his official Twitter account he was glad that Keneş had been released. “No one should be deprived of their liberty for criticising a politician,” he tweeted.

Commenting on the ambassador's response on his official Twitter account on Monday, Keneş said the statement basically admits that his arrest aimed to silence him, since the ambassador said he was jailed after he continued to post tweets.

“He [the ambassador] is hiding behind the lie that my press statement included threatening remarks, yet it was the matter of another complaint,” he said, referring to separate complaint filed by a prosecutor against him over his statements.

“When that [press] statement is read as a whole, it is obvious that it does not contain a threat [to anyone],” Keneş added.

The journalist also stressed that when the ambassador carefully examines the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and relevant rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), he will see that his tweets do not contain an insult of the president.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 January 2016, Tuesday