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Academic, journalist given suspended sentences for showing solidarity with  Özgür Gündem

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A professor and a journalist who stood trial separately for serving as “editor-in-chief on duty” for the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily were handed down suspended sentences of 15 months and 18 months, respectively, on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

Professor Beyza Üstün and journalist Ekrem Murat Çelikkan were among a group of intellectuals and press freedom activists who launched a campaign in solidarity with the daily last year, which was under heavy government pressure. Prominent journalists and academics served as the “editor-in-chief on duty” for the newspaper as an act of solidarity.

Özgür Gündem, along with 14 other media outlets, was eventually shut down by a government decree on issued on Oct. 29, 2016.

Üstün and Çelikkan’s sentences were handed down by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Tuesday.

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 37 journalists, academics and activists for acting as “editors-in-chief on duty” for the Özgür Gündem daily last year.

In June 2016, an İstanbul prosecutor demanded prison sentences between two to 14 years for journalists, academics and activists who participated in the solidarity campaign with the daily.

In November 2016, an indictment sought aggravated life sentences for author Aslı Erdoğan and linguist Necmiye Alpay on charges of allegedly disseminating terrorist propaganda and disrupting the unity of the state. Both Erdoğan and Alpay had joined the solidarity campaign for Özgür Gündem.

In January, Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of Özgür Gündem, was arrested on accusations of membership in a terrorist organization.

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