Turkey frees 7 from op­po­si­tion pa­per

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Seven staff mem­bers of an op­po­si­tion news­pa­per were re­leased from a Turk­ish jail early Sat­ur­day pend­ing the out­come of their trial on charges of aid­ing ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions.

A court ruled for the re­lease of Cumhuriyet news­pa­per’s car­toon­ist Musa Kart and six oth­ers Fri­day, but or­dered four oth­ers to re­main in cus­tody.

The daily news­pa­per is staunchly op­posed to Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and is one of the few re­main­ing out­lets in Turkey crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment.

Nine­teen de­fen­dants went on trial Mon­day on charges that they aided out­lawed or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Kur­dish mil­i­tants, a far­left group and the net­work of U.S.-based cleric Fethul­lah Gulen, whom the gov­ern­ment blames for a failed coup last year.

Upon his re­lease, Kart told re­porters they had been im­pris­oned for nine months for “un­just, law­less, base­less al­le­ga­tions.”

He said the in­dict­ment would col­lapse with their re­lease.

Fam­i­lies and sup­port­ers em­braced the jour­nal­ists out­side the prison on the out­skirts of Istanbul. The terms of their re­lease bar them from leav­ing Turkey.

“I thought I’d be very happy at the mo­ment of my re­lease,” the 63-year-old car­toon­ist said. “Un­for­tu­nately, four of our friends are still in Silivri prison.”

Cumhuriyet’s ed­i­tor in chief, Mu­rat Sabuncu, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Ah­met Sik, promi­nent colum­nist Kadri Gursel and Akin Ata­lay, the chair of the ex­ec­u­tive board that owns the pa­per, re­main be­hind bars.

The Cumhuriyet ar­rests are part of a wider crack­down in the af­ter­math of last sum­mer’s bloody coup at­tempt. More than 50,000 peo­ple have been im­pris­oned.

Crit­ics say the crack­down that ini­tially tar­geted peo­ple sus­pected of links to the failed coup has ex­panded to in­clude gov­ern­ment op­po­nents. Op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers, ac­tivists and more than 150 jour­nal­ists are among those jailed.

The trial was ad­journed un­til Sept. 11.

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