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Turkish journalist calls his release from jail a defeat for Erdogan

Editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Gul speak to the media after being released from prison outside the Silivri prison complex near Istanbul

The release of two prominent Turkish journalists following a ruling by Turkey’s top court that their rights had been violated is a “clear defeat” for President Tayyip Erdogan, one of them said on Tuesday.

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of secularist opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, and his colleague Erdem Gul were freed on Friday after the constitutional court ruled that their detentions had violated their rights.

The two, who still face trial and potential life sentences, were arrested in November and charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organisation and publishing material in violation of state security.

Cumhuriyet published photos, videos and a report last year that it said showed intelligence officials trucking arms to Syria in 2014.

Erdogan, who cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of an attempt to undermine Turkey’s global standing, has said he does not respect the constitutional court’s decision and that the case is not about press freedom, but about espionage.

Dundar, speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, said he would defy an order to surrender his passport and would attempt to travel overseas.

In its ruling, the constitutional court said the detention of the two was “not lawful” and violated their individual freedom and safety. Their trial is due to start on March 25.

Advocacy group Reporters Without Borders welcomed the court’s decision and called for the charges of espionage and assisting a terrorist organisation to be dropped.

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