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Fireworks are seen in Istanbul on April 1, during elections. A court in the city convicted eight individuals of anti-state charges for their role in a solidarity campaign with the pro-Kurdish newspaper, Özgür Gündem. (Reuters/Kemal Aslan)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 31, 2019

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on April 4, 2019 1:31 PM ET

Eight sentenced over Özgür Gündem campaign
An Istanbul court on April 3 sentenced seven guest editors who took part in a solidarity campaign with the now shuttered daily, Özgür Gündem, the television and news website Medyascope reported.

The court convicted Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Öncü Akgül, and Celalettin Can of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," and sentenced all but one of them to a suspended 15-month prison sentence. Can was also sentenced to 15 months in prison, but the court did not delay the sentence, according the report. He is free pending appeal.

At the same hearing, the court convicted Hüseyin Aykol, then chief editor of Özgür Gündem, of the same charge and sentenced him to three years and nine months in prison, according to the report. He is free pending appeal.

Journalists, politicians, and activists participated in the campaign in 2016 to raise awareness of the government oppression of the pro-Kurdish newspaper. Each participant acted as the symbolic chief editor for a day, attended a morning news meeting, and wrote a column for the next day's edition.

CPJ has previously documented how prosecutors have questioned all the participants in the campaign, and charged at least 38 with "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization."

Three participants were jailed briefly in 2016; one served time from August to October in 2017 before being released on probation, and one still serves time since January 2019.

Özgür Gündem was shuttered by a government decree in October 2016.

Mezopotamya News Agency reporter detained

Police detained Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency in the southeastern city of Mardin on April 3 while he was covering a funeral, his employer reported. Kanbal was released after being questioned by a judge as part of an investigation in which the reporter is accused of "violating military laws." He was later released, according to the report.


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