France rejects Turkey criticism over diplomats at journalist trial

29th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

France hit back Tuesday at criticism from Turkey, saying its diplomats had the right to observe a trial in Istanbul of opposition journalists charged with espionage.

"The diplomats follow the news in their country of residence and, in that context, routinely attend judicial hearings as observers around the world," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

Turkey objected on Monday to comments on social media by some of the diplomats who attended the first day of the trial of the Cumhuriyet daily's editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul.

But the French foreign ministry said: "Freedom of expression and the press, the right to inform and the ability to express critical points of view are essential components of democratic debate, particularly in a member state of the Council of Europe and a candidate to join the European Union.

"We will continue to follow, with our European partners, the developments in Turkey, with which we will hold a deep, confident and constructive dialogue."

Dundar and Gul face possible life terms on espionage charges over an article accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms bound for Syria.

The first day of the trial Friday was attended by top diplomats including the British consul general to Istanbul Leigh Turner, who shared pictures including a selfie with a grinning Dundar under the hashtag #freedomofexpression.

Turkey was ranked 149th out of 180 countries for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders in 2015.

Nearly 2,000 people have been prosecuted for "insulting" Erdogan since the former premier became president in August 2014.


© 2016 AFP

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