Turkey seeks 15-year prison terms for staff at opposition newspaper Sözcü  

Turkish prosecutors are seeking maximum 15-year prison terms for five leading journalists at secularist opposition daily Sözcü for aiding the Gülen movement, which Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt and designates a terror organisation, pro-government Sabah daily reported

Veteran journalist and columnist Emin Çölaşan, columnist Necati Doğru, editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz and internet editor Mustafa Çetin of Sözcü newspaper are accused of aiding the Gülen movement, a religious group accused by Ankara of infiltrating state institutions to topple the government , Sabah said.

The five are set to stand trial in Istanbul on Jan. 18.

The cases against the Sözcü staff follow a previous trial which began in 2017 against the daily’s staff for aiding the Gülen movement. Sözcu video journalist Mediha Olgun and Gokmen Ulu were released following months of detention over terror links, while the newspaper’s founder Burak Akbay, who has left the country, stands accused of being a leader of a terrorist organisation.

Over 120,000 people in the police, military, academia, media and civil service have been detained or dismissed from their jobs over their alleged links to the Gülen movement amid Ankara’s ongoing crackdown on the group.

Journalists at one of the country’s few remaining opposition papers, Cumhuriyet, have been prosecuted in numerous court cases, with some, including the current editor-in-chief, and are in the process of appealing against convictions of up to seven-and-a-half years in jail.

“Taking into account that the organisation’s leader Fethullah Gülen had granted permission for his followers, embedded in various positions, to abuse him in an open and vulgar manner in order to conceal their identities, the appearance of being against FETÖ, heavy criticism or open insults directed at the organisation do not in and of themselves show that the defendants do not support FETÖ and are not in fact members of FETÖ,” the indictment stated.