Turkish journalists face jail for describing Brunson case as 'hostage diplomacy'

The reporters argued that the Turkish judicial system was taking orders from President Erdogan's administration.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish prosecutors have launched a lawsuit against two journalists for calling the terror case against American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson “failing hostage diplomacy,” as intense US pressure forced the country’s judiciary to let the Evangelical go home on Friday after two years of detention despite ruling on a sentence of over three years of imprisonment.

Reporters Alican Uludag and Duygu Guvenc whose news stories came to the attention of Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Bureau of Media Crimes, work for the Kemalist opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.

The Orwellian-named bureau accused them of insulting “the Turkish nation, Turkish judiciary, the Republic of Turkey and the Grand National Assembly,” in three news stories they wrote, per article 301 of the criminal code that could land them in jail for up to two years.

The stories they wrote in July were titled “US-adjusted justice,” “Is it the judiciary or the government behind detentions and releases?” and “As the hostage diplomacy collapses.”

Erdogan himself has branded Brunson as “a terrorist and spy” for allegedly supporting Kurdish rebels to create a Kurdish state, trying to convert Kurds to Christianity, and cooperating with military coup plotters who failed to overthrow the government.

All charges were brought against the pastor by secret witnesses who claimed to formerly belong to his church in the western city of Izmir where the North Carolina man lived and did missionary work for over two decades.

In their reports, the journalists made the argument that judiciary was not independent and taking orders from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration.

They also wrote that Ankara was trying to mend its broken ties with the West by succumbing to pressure from Washington and the European Union to release westerners held “as hostages” in Turkish prisons without repairing the justice system.

During an interrogation before Brunson was released, Guven and Uludag told prosecutors they used their constitutional right to expression, according to Cumhuriyet.

The Turkish President had implied granting Brunson liberty by exchanging him with his foe-turned-friend Fethullah Gulen, a US-exiled Islamic preacher whose followers in the state structure Erdogan holds responsible for mounting the failed coup in 2016.

“Give us the pastor, they say. Well, you, too, have a pastor [Gulen]. Give him to us,” Erdogan said in September 2017. “Then, we will give yours [Brunson] back.”

Several months later, in January 2018, he complained that the US was still refusing to extradite Gulen.

“America is busy coming up with excuses. They are not giving us the terrorist [Gulen]. Then, you [US] cannot take any terrorist from us. You will not get this terrorist [Brunson] as long as this poor man is alive,” he said, using an expression of modesty Turks say when referring to themselves.

A hearing against reporters Uludag and Guvenc is set to take place on Dec. 20 after the Justice Ministry gave the green light to prosecutors to go ahead with a trial.

The Ministry’s head Abdulhamit Gul along with the Interior Minister Suleyman Soy came under US sanctions in August for their role in Brunson’s detention days after Vice President Mike Pence vowed to punish the NATO ally.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany