25 Turkish journalists jailed over 2016 coup

An Istanbul court has sentenced 25 journalists to prison terms of up to seven years over links to the botched July 2016 coup. 

They were arrested after the failed attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Almost all of those jailed worked for media groups associated by the authorities with self-exiled, US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of organising the coup. He denies the charges.

Many of those convicted worked for the Zaman newspaper, the most significant of the titles associated with Gulen, which was taken over by the government in March 2016.

Others worked for Aksiyon magazine and the Rotahaber website.

Ten of those convicted were given terms of seven and a half years, including Unal Tanik, a veteran Turkish journalist who was the editor of Rotahaber.

Thirteen were jailed for six years, including Hanim Busra Erdal, once a prominent columnist for Zaman.

The opposition-linked Cumhuriyet newspaper’s chief editor Murat Sabuncu and reporter Ahmet Şik, who have been held for over a year on terror-related charges, have been freed but remain on trial.

Sabuncu and Şik were ordered to be freed by the judge after a one-day hearing.

However, they are still under charge and on trial and the renowned paper’s chairman, Akin Atalay, remains in jail.

The three were the last remaining suspects awaiting a final verdict.

Amnesty International’s European chief Gauri van Gulik said: “After well over a year in prison on pre-trial detention, the release of these two journalists is long overdue. The decision provides a glimmer of hope for the scores of other journalists behind bars in the country that has become the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

“As Ahmet and Murat are reunited with their loved ones, shamefully, their colleague Akın Atalay will be led back to the prison cell where he has been held for more than 16 months.

“Akın Atalay and all other wrongfully imprisoned journalists must be immediately and unconditionally released and charges against them dropped. It is time for Turkey to let journalists do their essential work freely.”

Seventeen Cumhuriyet employees face terror charges in the trial, which started last July, with the others freed over the last year. The date of the final verdict is unknown.

The next hearing is due on March 16 and the journalists still face up to 43-year sentences if convicted.

The decision to release Sabuncu and Şik was greeted with cheers from supporters and Şik wept.


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supporters during the botched 2016 coup. Picture credit: Wikimedia 


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