A Finnish-Turkish journalist who was sentenced to more than two years in prison over an article she wrote has had her conviction thrown out on appeal.
The Wall Street Journal newspaper reports that Ayla Albayrak has won the appeal against her conviction in absentia of spreading ‘terror propaganda’ about a banned Kurdish separatist group, in a 2015 article for the paper. Albayrak holds dual Finnish and Turkish citizenship.
Writing on Twitter, Albayrak thanked her supporters in Finland, including human rights groups and other journalists as well as the “tireless, dedicated diplomats of Finland”.
“This decision is a relief for me and my family but not a real sign of greater press freedom in Turkey” she says.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Albayrak she hoped the successful appeal “was not intended to be part of Turkey’s ongoing international PR campaign to rescue its image in the West”.
Turkey is the world’s top jailer of journalists, but in recent weeks has seen an opportunity to portray itself as a defender of journalism over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.
Official interventions and appeal process
Since Albayrak was sentenced last October, there were repeated official protests from Finland to Turkey over the case.
The Turkish Ambassador to Finland was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki for talks; State Secretary Peter Stenlund lobbied his Turkish counterpart; Foreign Minister Timo Soini raised the case with his EU colleagues; and President Sauli Niinistö wrote directly to Turkish President Erdogan.
Finland suggested that Albayrak’s case could affect relations between Turkey and the EU, as well as bilateral relations between Finland and Turkey.
Although Albayrak testified at her trial, the prison sentence was not enforced during the appeals process.