A Turkish court has handed prison sentences to 14 staff of the Cumhuriyet opposition newspaper on “terrorism” charges, and acquitted three others, according to state media.
The sentences for those convicted on Wednesday by the Istanbul-based court ranged from two-and-a-half years to seven-and-a-half years.
Among them are renowned journalists, including investigative reporter Ahmet Sik, who was sentenced to seven years and six months. Journalist and columnist Kadri Gursel was sentenced to 30 months.
The court handed cartoonist Musa Kart a three-year-and-nine-month sentence, while Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu was sentenced to seven years and six months.
The convicted staff members will remain free pending appeal, but they are barred from leaving Turkey. They will also regularly report to the judicial authorities.
Three staff members were acquitted by the court.
The court also ruled that the case against the prominent journalist Can Dundar, previously the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, would continue separately, the Cumhuriyet reported.
Another defendant in the case, who was not employed by the paper and had been charged for his activities on Twitter, got the stiffest sentence: 10 years.
The staff of the newspaper, one of the rare voices in Turkey that is still critical of the government, were charged with supporting in their coverage three groups that Turkey considers “terror” groups – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the organisation of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim religious leader Ankara holds responsible for a failed 2016 coup attempt.
The Turkish government says the members of Gulen’s movement have run “a parallel state” within the civilian and military bureaucracy, following their own agenda. Gulen, who is based in the United States, has denied the charges.
A recent European Commission report said that under the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the coup bid, more than 150,000 people had been taken into custody, 78,000 arrested and over 110,000 civil servants dismissed. Turkish authorities say that some 40,000 have been reinstated in the process.
Turkey’s Western allies have repeatedly condemned the Turkish government’s detentions and purges after the coup attempt.
Local and international rights groups accuse the government of using the coup bid as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.
The government says that the purges and detentions are in line with the rule of law and aim to remove Gulen’s supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.