Turkey Upholds Sentences against Cumhuriyet Staff

Tuesday, 19 February, 2019 - 11:15
Asharq Al-Awsat

A Turkish appeals court upheld on Tuesday convictions against 14 journalists and senior staff members of prominent opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet.

The daily said six staff members were ordered to jail because their appeals are exhausted, while those with longer sentences can appeal further to the supreme court.

A court last year sentenced the 14 staff members to jail on charges of terrorism and supporting a US-based cleric blamed for organizing an attempted coup in July 2016.

Journalists Hakan Kara and Guray Oz, cartoonist Musa Kart, lawyer Mustafa Kemal Gungor, board member Onder Celik, and accountant Emre Iper will be sent back to prison to complete their sentences, all of which are less than five years, Cumhuriyet said. Journalist Kadri Gursel and lawyer Bulent Utku will not go back to prison due to time already served.

Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, prominent journalist Ahmet Sik, Hikmet Cetinkaya, Orhan Erinc, Akin Atalay and Aydin Engin will appeal against their sentences, all longer than five years, at a higher court, the paper added.

The staff of Cumhuriyet were charged with supporting the network of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Ankara holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup attempt. They have denied the charges.

The case against Cumhuriyet was widely criticized as a crackdown on press freedom.

Human rights organizations have voiced increasing concern about media freedom in Turkey, accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using the failed coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 civil servants and military personnel have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. Widespread operations and arrests are still routine.

Turkish authorities on Tuesday carried out three separate operations against alleged followers of Gulen’s network across the country, ordering the arrests of 311 people.

Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2018 index on press freedom.

Read More ...