25 journalists sentenced to jail for failed coup in Turkey


ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced 25 journalists to jail for allegedly aiding the network that Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Prominent newspaper journalist Murat Aksoy was sentenced to 25 months in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation without being a member, Anadolu said. Pop singer and columnist Atilla Tas was sentenced to 37 months on the same charges.

Eleven reporters in the same case were handed six years and three months for membership of an armed terrorist organisation, it said, while 12 others were sentenced to seven years and six months on the same charges.

The court acquitted one defendant, Anadolu said.

“I always said I trust the judiciary, I always believe in it. I dissented, I did nothing else. If dissent is a crime in a country, that is how guilty I am,” Tas was quoted by private broadcaster CNNTurk as saying.

The reporters mainly worked for publications that have been closed down by the government for links to the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen of heading the network that orchestrated the 2016 coup attempt, during which 250 people were killed. Gulen has denied involvement.

Authorities have detained 32 members of the Turkish military suspected of links to the Gulen network in an operation centred in the northwestern province of Tekirdag and spread across nine others, Anadolu said on Thursday.

Separately, Istanbul police said they had issued warrants for 121 people suspected of links to the same network and detained 33 of them in the operation spread across 28 other provinces.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed and over 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in crackdown following the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to quash dissent. Turkey says the strict measures are necessary because of the security threats it faces.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Tuvan Gumrukcu; editing by Andrew Roche)

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