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3 journalists given jail sentences on Erdoğan insult charges

A Turkish court has handed down jail sentences to three journalists on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Mesopotamia news agency reported.

The trial of Hüseyin Aykol, co-editor-in-chief of the now-closed Özgür Gündem daily, the daily’s managing editor İnan Kızılkaya and Evrensel daily columnist İhsan Çaralan was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on Thursday.

The journalists attended the hearing along with their lawyers.

The court handed down 22 months to Aykol and Kızılkaya and 11 months to Çaralan on charges of insulting the president in articles they wrote while serving as acting editors-in-chief of the Özgür Gündem daily.

The court suspended the sentences of Kızılkaya and Çaralan, while Aykol’s sentence was not suspended due to the absence of required circumstances.

A Turkish court in August 2016 ordered the interim closure of Özgür Gündem for alleged links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), spreading “terrorist propaganda” on their behalf and waging a war against the state.

Özgür Gündem, along with 14 other media outlets, was shut down in line with a government decree on Oct. 29, 2016 that was issued in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 37 journalists, academics and activists for acting as “editors-in-chief on duty” for the Özgür Gündem daily in 2016.

Hundreds of people in Turkey, even including high school students, face charges of insulting President Erdoğan. The slightest criticism is considered insult, and there has been a rise in the number of cases in which people inform on others claiming that they insulted the president, the government or government officials.

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