Turkey frees 7 from opposition paper
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.