ISTANBUL: A group of lawyers on Thursday gathered outside Istanbul’s main courthouse to protest against an appeal court’s upholding the convictions of former journalists and executives from opposition daily Cumhuriyet.
The court on Tuesday confirmed jail sentences against 14 former Cumhuriyet staff including prominent journalists who are charged with “aiding and abetting terror groups without being a member.”
They had been free pending the appeals, but after the court verdict eight of them would have to go back to prison and the remaining six — who were given sentences of more than five years, have the option of appealing further to the Supreme Court.
The controversial case against Cumhuriyet — one of the few remaining dailies opposing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — has sparked concerns over the state of free press in Turkey.
Around 100 supporters of the journalists including lawyers and opposition MPs staged a protest outside the Caglayan courthouse.
Tora Pekin, a lawyer in the Cumhuriyet case, said the latest ruling meant “the end of the free press” in Turkey, in an address to the crowd.
“It is the time to remember what we said from the very beginning of the case: The ruling delivered is the end of the free press that no longer exists even on paper,” he said.
Veteran journalist Kadri Gursel and lawyer Bulent Utku, who were initially supposed to remain free given their time served, will also have to go back to prison in line with the laws, Pekin said.
“Gursel is supposed to remain in prison for one or two days to fill the remaining term,” Pekin told AFP, adding that the eight were due to return to jail within a week after an arrest warrant.
Turkey is currently ranked 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 Press Freedom Index.