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Opposition leader condemns AKP government for arresting journalists

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Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has condemned the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for arresting scores of journalists.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks came on Monday, during the trial of Cumhuriyet daily journalists and executives who were arrested in November 2016.

Referring to the 109th anniversary of the “Journalists and Press Festival”, which has been celebrated since the official abolishment of censorship on July 24, 1908, Kılıçdaroğlu said in a social media message: “We cannot celebrate the Press Festival when we have scores of journalists under arrest. We will fight until the press is free and justice is restored in the country! I am condemning the AKP government for turning the Press Festival into a day of shame, for arresting journalists doing their jobs and for practicing the worst-ever censorship.”

The trial of 17 suspects, including Cumhuriyet daily journalists and executives, began at an İstanbul court on Monday, 267 days after the newspaper’s staff members were arrested.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in April 2017 originally named 19 suspects, including former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, who left Turkey before a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in the April indictment accuse them of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and FETÖ.

FETÖ is a derogatory term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government to refer to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

During the first hearing at the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court on Monday, Sabuncu demanded that the proceedings be adjourned until July 25, stating that some of his documents and newspaper reports had been confiscated. The court accepted his request.

The suspects were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace on Nov. 5, 2016. Atalay was detained at İstanbul Atatürk Airport upon his return from Germany and subsequently arrested on Nov. 12, 2016.

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