Turkish court upholds sentences against Cumhuriyet journalists despite successful appeal | News | DW | 21.11.2019
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Turkish court upholds sentences against Cumhuriyet journalists despite successful appeal

A Turkish court upheld its conviction of 12 former employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper on Thursday. The ruling was made despite a Supreme Court verdict that should have overturned it.

Turkish freedom activists read Cumhuriyet newspaper (Reuters/M. Sezer)

Turkish freedom activists read Cumhuriyet newspaper

A Turkish court upheld its conviction of 12 former employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper on Thursday. The court made the ruling despite a decision by the Supreme Court, the highest court in Turkey, to overturn the conviction, which should overrule the lower court's verdict.

A 13th defendant, the journalist Kadri Gursel, was acquitted on Thursday.

Read more: Turkish journalist Can Dundar: Erdogan's opponents 'at risk everywhere in the world'

Rights groups have decried the ruling as a scandal. "Once again a Turkish court has defied the decision of the higher court. Once again, journalism is the victim in this case," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, of Human Rights Watch, outside the court.

The case has sparked global outrage over press freedom in Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Why were the journalists convicted?

Fourteen employees of Cumhuriyet — one of the few remaining voices critical of the government — were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges.

The 12 were convicted of supporting three organizations which Turkey views as terrorist groups through their news coverage: The Kurdistan Workers' Party, the left-wing Revolutionary People's Party/Front and the Gulen movement which staged a failed coup in 2016.

Cumhuriyet's former lawyer Bulent Utku said in court that the case was "political from the beginning, and aimed at revenge."

The journalists were sentenced to jail terms ranging from two-and-a-half years to eight years.

Turkish media groups have been steadily brought under the control of Erdogan's allies in recent years.

Read more: In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power begins to crumble

Cumhuriyet is one of the few Turkish newspapers now owned by a business tycoon. Their former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany in 2016 following the backlash from an article claiming that Turkey supplied arms to Islamist groups within Syria.

Turkey is considered one of the world's leading jailer of journalists, and currently ranked 157 out of 180 countries for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.

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ed/aw (Reuters, AFP)

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