Turkey journalists freed from prison after court ruling

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image captionErdem Gul (left) and Can Dundar were freed early on Friday

Two Turkish journalists charged with revealing state secrets have been freed from prison but still face trial.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, from the newspaper Cumhuriyet, were detained in November over a report alleging that the Turkish government tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria.

But Turkey's constitutional court challenged the charges, saying they violated freedom of the press.

The pair still face possible life sentences at their trial on 25 March.

Mr Dundar, Cumhuriyet's editor-in-chief, and Mr Gul, its Ankara bureau chief, were released in the early hours of Friday after spending 92 days in prison.

The pair were greeted outside the jail near Istanbul by large crowds chanting support.

"This is a trial of press freedom," Mr Dundar said. "We got out but more than 30 colleagues are still in prison. I hope that this ruling will pave way for their freedom as well."

Pointing to the prison, he said he would continue to fight for press freedom "until this concentration camp that you see behind me becomes a museum".

'Reputation salvaged'

The constitutional court, which convened to discuss the journalists' individual petitions, ruled on Thursday that their "rights to personal liberty and security had been violated".

"Their freedom of expression and freedom of press" were also violated, the court said in a statement.

The decision was approved with 12 votes for and three against, Turkish media reported.

The campaigning group Reporters Without Borders said the constitutional court ruling "salvaged the Turkish judicial system's reputation".

But is described the finding as "just the first step" in what is likely to be a long campaign for the two to be fully cleared.

The report that landed them in jail claimed to show proof that a consignment of weapons seized at the border in January 2014 was bound for Syria.

They were formally charged with obtaining and revealing state secrets "for espionage purposes" and seeking to "violently" overthrow the Turkish government as well as aiding an "armed terrorist organisation".

They were held in the Silivri jail on the outskirts of Istanbul.

Freedom of the press in Turkey

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  • Turkey ranks 149th amongst the 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index 2015
  • Media organisations in Turkey say that more than 30 journalists are currently behind bars
  • Most are of Kurdish origin
  • The government argues journalism in Turkey is among the most free in the world

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