Six former Cumhuriyet employees returning to prison a second time

Journalists and executives that worked for the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper are waiting for final procedures to be completed before entering prison on Thursday, after a court in Istanbul upheld their prison sentences, Diken news site reported

Some 15 staff of Cumhuriyet were handed out long prison sentences last year in April in the Cumhuriyet trials, during which the prosecutors claimed the newspaper aided the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, and the Gülen movement, followers of an Islamist preacher accused of plotting the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Journalists Ahmet Şık and Aydın Engin and the newspapers former editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu received seven-and-a-half-year sentences. Journalists Hikmet Çetinkaya and Orhan Erinç received six years and six months each, while cartoonist Musa Kart and four other Cumhuriyet staff, Güray Öz, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik received 45-month sentences. Columnist Kadri Gürsel was handed a 30-month sentence, while the court decided to handle files of former editor in chief Can Dundar and Cumhuriyet's former Washington reporter Ilhan Tanir separately since they were not in Turkey. All defendants in Turkey were held in pre-trial detention and were released at different stages of the trial.

The defendants appealed the ruling, but the regional court upheld the sentences. According to the Turkish law, those who are sentenced to more than five years in prison can apply to the Supreme Court of Appeals. For sentences less than five-year in prison, the defendants have to go to prison once the verdict is issued.

Accordingly, six of the defendants went to the courthouse today for the finalisation of the procedures. The journalists will serve the rest of their sentences in Kandıra prison in the northwestern province of İzmit, Diken said.

The Cumhuriyet Foundation, the owner of the 94-year-old Cumhuriyet newspaper, elected a new board in September, which immediately reversed the publication’s editorial policy and dismissed some of its senior staff, including the defendants of the Cumhuriyet trial.