Istanbul, April 25, 2018--An Istanbul court today convicted 14 people affiliated with the independent daily Cumhuriyet of aiding terrorist organizations and sentenced them to jail terms ranging between three and seven years, the newspaper reported. The court placed the journalists on probation and banned them from traveling until the appeals process has ended, according to reports.
"We condemn the convictions handed down to Cumhuriyet journalists by a justice system so compromised it should be on trial itself," said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova in New York. "Conflating journalism with terrorism is a transparently cynical ploy by the Turkish authorities to shut down the press. We call for all of these verdicts to be overturned on appeal."
Turkish prosecutors accused the journalists and newspaper staff of being or aiding followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in July 2016, and of aiding the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey classes both groups as terrorist organizations.
Before issuing its verdict, the court removed Cumhuriyet's former chief editor, Can Dündar, and a reporter, İlhan Tanır, from the trial because they are not in Turkey. The court acquitted three of the defendants--Bülent Yener, a former board member of Cumhuriyet, Turhan Günay, chief editor of the daily's literary supplement, and Günseli Özatalay, the chief accountant.
The court handed down the following prison sentences, Cumhuriyet reported:
- Seven years, three months, and 15 days: Akın Atalay, Cumhuriyet Foundation chair
- Six years and three months: Columnists Orhan Erinç and Hikmet Çetinkaya
- Two years and six months: Kadri Gürsel, a columnist and chair of the International Press Institute's Turkish National Committee
- Three years and nine months: Columnists Güray Öz and Hakan Kara; the cartoonist Musa Kart; lawyer and foundation board member Mustafa Kemal Güngör; board member Önder Çelik
- Seven years and six months: Columnist Aydın Engin; former chief editor Murat Sabuncu; reporter Ahmet Şık
- Three years, one month, and 15 days: Accountant Emre İper
- Four years and six months: Cumhuriyet Foundation board member Bülent Utku
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This alert was corrected to reflect the number of people affiliated with Cumhuriyet who are sentenced by the court, and to include the name and sentencing details of Bülent Utku.]