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Court Slams Journalists In Prison For ‘Terrorism’ Charges

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A Turkish court has sentenced 14 employees of a newspaper that has been critical of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s government to prison, convicting them on ‘terrorism’ charges.

The lengthy sentences have added to increasing fears over press freedom, particularly with national elections taking place in June.

According to Turkish state news agency Anadolu the court handed down sentences of up to eight years to staff members of Cumhuriyet newspaper, one of the country’s last remaining independent publications.

The defendants were among over a dozen journalists and staff from Cumhuriyet to go on trail, accused of supporting terror organizationas in the wake of a 2016 botch coup to oust Erdogan

The staff of the paper, which has long been critical of the president, were found guilty of supporting the network of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the US. Erdogan claims Gulen has his supporters were behind the coup attempt, something the Pennsylvania-based cleric has denied.

The staff of the paper, which has long been critical of the president, were found guilty of supporting the network of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the US. Erdogan claims Gulen has his supporters were behind the coup attempt, something the Pennsylvania-based cleric has denied.

In the aftermath of the failed coup, Turkey has been under a state of emergency, and Erdogan has orchestrated a series of controversial constitutional reforms while overseeing a massive purge within government ranks. Critics have argued that martial law was a pretense Erdogan was using to silence the opposition.

Despite the crackdown Cumhuriyet didn’t let up in its scrutiny of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party. After Thursday’s sentencing the newspaper’s journalists remained defiant.

“No penalty can stop us from doing journalism. If needed, we will go to the prison again but we will continue to do journalism,” Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, who was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison, told AFP after the verdict

Sabuncu and prominent investigative journalist Ahmet Sık, who was given the same sentence, were released on bail last month after spending more than a year in pretrial detention

“These verdicts are entirely unlawful,” said Sik’s wife, Yonca. “We knew that law never existed but now it’s certified.”

All but one defendant in the case will remain free pending an appeal.

Three Cumhuriyet employees were acquitted. The trial of two other Cumhuriyet journalists will continue separately.





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