Turkey newspaper staff back on trial

SILIVRI: The trial resumed on Friday of staff from Turkey’s opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper seen as a test of press freedom under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with two suspects now approaching their 500th day behind bars.
A total of 17 staff from Cumhuriyet (Republic) face terror charges in the case, with most now free pending the conclusion of the trial after a number of conditional releases.
However three senior members of staff — chairman Akin Atalay, editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and investigative reporter Ahmet Sik — remain in detention to the outrage of supporters.
Sabuncu and Atalay have now spent the last 495 days in jail and Sik, who was detained a little after the initial wave of arrests, 434 days.
“End this persecution,” said Cumhuriyet in its front page headline.
All three jailed suspects were present as the trial resumed at the courthouse in Silivri outside Istanbul, part of a complex that also contains the prison where they are held.
Also present were the defendants who were released last year after long stints in jail but remain charged, including cartoonist Musa Kart and columnist Kadri Gursel.
There was tension ahead of the opening of the hearing as anti-riot police with shields prevented supporters from giving statements to media in front of the courthouse.
In the end, some managed to read brief statements in front of the line of police calling for the release of the staff, a correspondent said.
“It is unacceptable for journalists to stay in prison that long just because they express their thoughts or publish headlines,” Utku Cakirozer, an MP for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said.
 — AFP