Turkey: Dissenting Voices Dwindle as Opposition Journalists go on Trial

Published July 24th, 2017 - 10:00 GMT
"We Want Justice" reads cover of opposition paper Cumhuriyet daily as protesters march on courthouse (Ozan Kose/AFP)
"We Want Justice" reads cover of opposition paper Cumhuriyet daily as protesters march on courthouse (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Nineteen people, including 11 journalists and executives from the government-critical Cumhuriyet daily who are currently in jail, are to go on trial in Turkey on Monday, in what activists are calling an attempt by the government to "silence" dissent.

Among those facing trial is Can Dundar, former editor-in-chief of the secular-leftist newspaper, who lives in exile in Europe. His report in 2015 about alleged arms shipments to Syrian rebels angered the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Also facing trial is cartoonist Musa Kart and Ahmet Sik, a well-known investigative reporter who had been previously imprisoned in 2011 for one year.

Prosecutors allege the accused worked to help designated terrorist organizations, including the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an extreme leftist group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Turkish cleric blamed for last year's coup attempt.

Those on trial face between 7.5 and 43 years in jail. Ten of the journalists have been behind bars since October.

Since the failed coup last year, more than 50,000 people have been jailed on allegations of links to Gulen. More than 165 media workers are currently in jail, including Deniz Yucel, the German-Turkish correspondent for Germany's Die Welt newspaper.

An indictment by Istanbul prosecutors accuses 17 of the defendants of "aiding an armed terrorist group without being members of it".

Enis Berberoglu, a member of parliament from the main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP), was jailed last month after he was accused of leaking the information on the weapons shipments to Cumhuriyet.

The verdict led the CHP to stage a three-week march from Ankara to Istanbul, where it held a mass rally protesting the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey and the sweeping powers granted to the government, imposed after the failed coup.

"The indictment charging the journalists and executives focuses almost entirely on news reports and Twitter posts," said a joint statement from press freedom groups, including Reporters Without Borders.

The groups say "the case is intended to silence Cumhuriyet, one of the few remaining opposition voices in the country."

Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey at 155 out of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index.


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