Free At Last

Today, at 17:09 CET, the news reached me via my cellphone. It was a message consisting of a single word: Ahmet!

And there it was, the rush of adrenaline. Could it be that they released him? Only seconds later I had the confirmation. Ahmet Şık had been released after 375 days in custody.

Too vividly do I remember March 3, 2011 in Istanbul: The police in front of his house, the crowd clapping for him as he was led to the car by a bunch of police officers, the shock of his wife, my friend and work colleague Yonca. Now, at least after more than a year this story finally takes a new turn. While the ludicrousness of the charges against Ahmet were evident to those close to him, it was nevertheless troubling to see the ensuing smear campaign against him in parts of the conservative Gülen-owned media. But the smear campaign also suggested the assumption that this was a coordinated effort and not only a lapse of the Turkish judiciary.

What followed was more than a year of acrimony and disappointments. The injustice of the charges and several hearings with laughable incriminations came not only as a burden to the imprisoned and their families, it also developed into a cause for concern regarding freedom of speech in Turkey. Because as the New Yorker recently put it: When you start arresting journalists, the freedom for those not in jail shrinks, too.

There is so much more to be said about it, but for today I will be content to say that I am happy to see Ahmet along with three other journalists released – including Nedim Şener. Nobody can give them back the year that has been stolen from them, nodody knows what perfidious turns the ongoing trial will take, and the list of imprisoned journalists is sadly still long enough. But at least for today let us smile and say: Free at last, Ahmet, free at last.

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~ by Christian Eichenmüller on March 12, 2012.

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