Turkish court sentences five journalists from shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper to jail
Turkish police raided the Istanbul office of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper in March 2018, taking its 33 employees into custody.
In April, five of the employees were formally arrested on charges of "being member of a terrorist organisation", "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation" and "continuously printing and publishing the publications of a terrorist organisation."
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi was shut down by government decree in July, 2018. Turkey's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) seized all of its assets on the grounds that the newspaper had been “making terrorist propaganda."
Turkish authorities link the newspaper with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a group that has waged a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil for Kurdish self-rule.
Publisher İhsan Yaşar and editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, who have been jailed pending trial, denied the charges against them during Friday's hearing.
"Journalism is being held hostage, journalism is imprisoned. Imprisoning journalism means imprisoning democracy," Çelebi said in his defence.
Çelebi was given a jail term of three years and nine months, while Yaşar was sentenced to 10 months in prison for possessing an unlicenced weapon, T24 reported.
The court handed editors Hacıoğlu, Hicran Ürün, and İhsan Yasul each a sentence of three years, one month and 15 days in prison for "aiding a terrorist organisation."
"The government views everyone who is not with it as terrorists and the judiciary contributes to this. There is not a single concrete piece of evidence showing our membership of a terrorist organisation. Only journalism is being tried here," Hacıoğlu said in her defence.
Yasul was also sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison for "making propaganda for a terrorist organisation."
The court that Hacıoğlu, Çelebi and Yaşar should be released for time served in jail pending trial.
Turkey, the world’s top jailer of journalists, ranks 159 out of 180 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)‘s Press Freedom Index.