Turkey's president Erdogan rejects court ruling to free journalists

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul left prison on Friday after the Constitutional Court ruled that their rights had been violated

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he has “no respect” for and would “not abide” by a court ruling that two prominent journalists were unfairly jailed.

The editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dundar, and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, were detained in November accused of revealing state secrets and attempting to overthrow the government after publishing claims that Turkey tried to deliver weapons to Islamist rebels in Syria.

The pair left prison on Friday after the Constitutional Court ruled that their rights had been violated. They still face trial on the charges, with prosecutors demanding that they be jailed for life.

In comments that will exacerbate international alarm about the rule of law in Turkey, President Erdogan severely criticised the court’s decision and suggested that he would not allow it to stand. “I keep my silence on the decision of the Constitutional Court but I do not abide by the decision or respect it,” he said. 

“The media should not have unlimited freedom. There is no absolute freedom anywhere in world media either.”

He said that there was no link between the case and the issue of freedom of expression, describing it instead as an “espionage case”.

Opposition parties severely criticised his remarks. Ozgur Ozel, an MP with the Republican People’s Party, accused the president of giving a “direct order” to those considering an appeal against the decision. “The statement is beyond advice, it is an instruction,” he told Hurriyet.

Mr Erdogan has had several run-ins with the Constitutional Court, including in 2014 when it overturned bans on Twitter and YouTube.

The president has been accused by critics of taking an increasingly authoritarian turn in recent years.