Turkey tries journalists on ‘ter­ror’ charges

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Is­tan­bul, Turkey - Staff from one of Turkey’s most re­spected op­po­si­tion news­pa­pers on Mon­day re­jected as ab­surd ‘ter­ror’ charges against them on the first day of a trial which has in­ten­si­fied alarm over press free­dom un­der Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

The 17 de­fen­dants from the Cumhuriyet daily were de­tained from Oc­to­ber last year and a dozen of them have now spent more than eight months in jail with­out be­ing con­victed.

They have been held un­der a state of emer­gency im­posed af­ter the July 2016 failed coup aimed at oust­ing Er­do­gan that the au­thor­i­ties blame on USbased preacher Fethul­lah Gulen.

The staff - in­clud­ing writ­ers, car­toon­ists and ex­ec­u­tives - were ap­plauded by sup­port­ers crammed into the Is­tan­bul court­room as the trial opened, an AFP jour­nal­ist said. Sup­port­ers re­leased dozens of mul­ti­coloured bal­loons out­side the court­house, chant­ing: ‘Don’t be si­lenced! A free media is a right!’

If con­victed, the de­fen­dants face vary­ing terms of up to 43 years in jail.

In an ex­traor­di­nary co­in­ci­dence, the trial opened on Turkey’s an­nual na­tional day of the press which marks the end of official cen­sor­ship in the Ot­toman Em­pire in 1908 un­der Sul­tan Ab­dul­hamid II.

Those ap­pear­ing in court in­cluded some of the best known names in Turk­ish jour­nal­ism in­clud­ing the colum­nist Kadri Gursel, the pa­per’s ed­i­tor in chief Murat Sabuncu, car­toon­ist Musa Kart as well as its chair­man Akin Ata­lay.

They are charged with sup­port­ing in the news­pa­per’s writ­ings three groups con­sid­ered by Turkey as ter­ror out­fits - the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK), the ul­tra-left Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Party-Front (DHKP-C) and Gulen’s move­ment, which Ankara calls the Fethul­lah Ter­ror Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FETO).

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