UN rights chief seeks transparency in Turkey journalist case

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The UN rights chief called Tuesday on Turkey to be transparent over its detention of journalists, warning that suspicions over Ankara's motives would otherwise persist.

"If there are genuine reasons to suppose that any journalists have committed crimes outside the scope of their journalistic work, then those reasons should be transparent to the journalists themselves, to their defence lawyers and to the rest of us," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Otherwise, inevitably, suspicions will continue to mount that these arrests are politically motivated," he added.

Earlier this month, several journalists were arrested and charged for plotting against the Islamist-rooted government, fuelling concerns over media freedom in the EU-aspirant country.

It was the latest move in a widening probe into Ergenekon, a purported secularist network that allegedly planned assassinations and bombings to spark chaos and prompt a military coup to topple the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Colville noted that as the probe falls under a "secrecy order, so the full details of the alleged evidence justifying the investigation and detention of the journalists is not publicly available."

"It is not yet clear whether those detained are under investigation for their legitimate activities relating to their professional duties as journalists and broadcasters, or whether there is other evidence against them unrelated to their work as journalists," he said.

"We call on Turkey to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with international standards, ...and to ensure that journalists are not prosecuted and imprisoned because of their journalistic work and critical reporting," he stressed.

© 2011 AFP

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