Turkish court jails 14 staff from opposition newspaper
A Turkish court sentenced 14 staff of the country’s leading opposition newspaper to up to seven years in prison on terrorism charges on Wednesday, according to the newspaper.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and investigative reporter Ahmet Sik were sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, according to Turkey’s state news agency. The journalists remain free pending appeal.
Three of 17 defendants were acquitted. Chairman Akin Atalay was convicted but will be released after already spending more than 500 days in jail.
The journalists were accused of supporting US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara claims masterminded the 2016 failed coup, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist organisation.
Reporters Without Borders’ Turkey representative, Erol Onderoglu, told The Telegraph, “The trial was ridiculous enough from the beginning, since all the journalists already served many, many months in prison. But we notice now a harsh sentence and a disproportionate sentence.”
He added, “We denounce strongly the verdict for the legitimate work of journalists".
Mr Onderoglu also claimed that the journalists were mistreated in prison, including being kept in isolation.
The court also decided that the case of the newspaper’s former-editor-in-chief Can Dundar would continue separately.
The case was emblematic of what critics have called an attack on press freedom following the coup attempt.
Cumhuriyet is fiercely critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has run front-page stories that have angered the president. Among those convicted are some of the biggest names in Turkish journalism.
The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey the worst jailer of journalists in the world.