ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish court in Istanbul on Wednesday sentenced 13 reporters, columnists, and one cartoonist of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper to decades in prison over charges of “aiding a terrorist group and committing crimes against the constitutional order” through their work and writings.
Jail times varying between three to 10 years were handed down to the staff of Cumhuriyet, a daily fiercely opposed to the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In total, Istanbul’s 27th heavy penal court gave 71 years and two months to the media workers.
Among them were columnist Kadri Gursel, reporter Ahmet Sik, and cartoonist Musa Kart.
“No dictator has ever won the war of silencing the righteous,” tweeted Sik whose books on Erdogan government’s former ties with the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement became best-sellers.
Accusations leveled against them included supporting Gulen’s movement, Kurdish rebels, and far-left armed groups as well as the 2016 failed coup attempt.
The cases against Can Dundar, the paper’s former editor-in-chief now exiled in Germany, and Ilhan Tanir were to continue separately.
Harsh rulings against the country’s prominent journalists came on the same day Reporters Without Borders (RSF) labeled Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists.”
Western-allied nation Turkey ranked 157th in a ranking of press freedom, worse than Russia which came 148th.
At the same hour the hearing of Cumhuriyet staff ended in Istanbul, Erdogan who is preparing for an even more powerful presidency in the snap June elections was addressing a ceremony held for the 56th anniversary of the Constitutional Court.
“As is the case in all issues, Turkey is entering a much better period when it comes to justice,” he said, in remarks carried by the state media.
"If longing for justice is voiced way too frequent somewhere, it means there is tyranny there," Erdogan added.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany