Turkish higher court upholds prison sentences for five journalists

A Turkish appeals court approved prison sentences for five journalists who had taken part in a campaign to release other arrested journalists working at pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper in 2016, Duvar news site reported on Thursday.

The Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court had previously sentenced  Hüseyin Aykol to 3 years and 9 months in prison and Hüseyin Bektaş, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Ayşe Düzkan and Ragıp Duran to 1 year and 6 months each. But lawyers of the five journalists later appealed to the regional court, which upheld the verdict on Thursday. It said that evidence against the journalists was sufficient, the evaluation made by the lower court regarding the journalists’ acts was correct, and those acts fell under the definition of terrorist propaganda in Turkish criminal law. 

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 50 of 56 journalists who participated in the campaign by acting as editors-in-chief in rotation. The courts ordered lawsuits to be brought against 38 journalists on terrorist propaganda charges.

Özgür Gündem was among 15 Kurdish media organisations officially closed down and seized under a state of emergency decree following a failed coup attempt in 2016.