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Demonstrators in central Istanbul protest the detention of three people on charges arising from their participation in a show of solidarity with pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, June 21, 2016. Police on August 16 raided the newspaper's offices and detained at least 21 journalists following a court order temporarily shuttering the newspaper. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkish court arraigns newspaper editors, columnist on terrorism charges

August 23, 2016 12:48 PM ET

New York, August 23, 2016 - Turkish authorities should immediately drop all charges against two newspaper editors and a columnist jailed on terrorism charges and release them without delay, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

An Istanbul court last night arraigned Bilir Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya, editor and news editor of Özgür Gündem, respectively, on charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," the pro-Kurdish newspaper reported on its website. The two were sent to Istanbul's Metris Prison, pending trial. An Istanbul court on August 19 also arraigned columnist and board member Aslı Erdoğan on charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" and "provoking the people to animosity and hatred," CPJ reported at the time. The journalists denied the charges, according to press reports.

"Bilir Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Aslı Erdoğan, and Özgür Gündem's staff have stood firmly and courageously against a relentless crackdown on press freedom in Turkey," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "These journalists are not terrorists; they are bulwarks of fearless journalism in the face of a terrifying arrest campaign, and they have no business being in prison."

Authorities have for years subjected Özgür Gündem and its staff to persistent judicial harassment, accusing it of fomenting separatism and affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the Turkish government classes as a terrorist group. After a court ordered the newspaper to stop publishing, police on August 16 raided and sealed its offices, detaining at least 17 of its staff and at least four other reporters who were there to cover the raid, CPJ reported at the time.

The newspaper has since continued to publish in cooperation with the socialist weekly Atılım, which has published daily special editions produced by Özgür Gündem's staff under the banned daily's logo. A court ordered all copies of yesterday's special edition confiscated.

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