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Turkey court gives jail terms to opposition journalists

The court in Istanbul sentenced journalists from the Sozcu daily [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 December, 2019

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An Istanbul court sentenced journalists from the Sozcu daily, including columnist Emin Colasan and editor-in-chief Metin Yilmaz, to prison terms ranging from two to three years on terrorism charges.
A Turkish court on Friday issued jail terms to six journalists from an opposition newspaper accused of links to the group blamed by the government for the 2016 failed coup, a lawyer told AFP

The court in Istanbul sentenced journalists from the Sozcu daily including columnist Emin Colasan and editor-in-chief Metin Yilmaz to prison terms ranging from two years and one month to three years and six months on terrorism charges, their lawyer Celal Ulgen said. 

The nationalist Sozcu is on occasion vehemently anti-government and its angry front pages are regarded with suspicion even by some liberal Turks critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

It is the second opposition daily to be targeted after Cumhuriyet newspaper.

"This is an empty case," Colasan was quoted by the paper as telling the court. "There is no evidence or witness against us."

Sozcu condemned the verdict as a "black stain", saying those convicted were only carrying out their work as journalists. 

The court also sentenced the newspaper's accountant to two years and one month in prison.

It said the case against its owner Burak Akbay, who is the subject of a 2017 arrest warrant but remains abroad, would be treated separately. 

Lawyer Ulgen said a higher court was due to decide whether to uphold the sentences, adding that the journalists were currently free.

"There is neither a judicial control or any measure that restricts their freedom right now," he said. 

The government blames the movement of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for the July 2016 failed coup but the Erdogan foe strongly denies the charges.

Critics say the vast crackdown in the wake of the failed putsch goes well beyond alleged coup plotters and opposition politicians and dozens of journalists have been caught up in the crackdown.

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