Appeals court upholds prison sentences of journalists

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Journalists and activists hold pictures of jailed journalists, including Ahmet Şık (picture on left), during a demonstration in front of Istanbul's courthouse on July 25, 2017. Seventeen directors and journalists from one of Turkey's most respected opposition newspapers the Cumhuriyet daily went on trial on July 24, 2017 after spending over eight months behind bars in a case which has raised new alarm over press freedoms under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

A Turkish appeals court has upheld prison sentences previously handed down to 18 defendants, including journalists and media workers, the Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Renowned journalists such as Ahmet Şık, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Aydın Engin as well as former Cumhuriyet executives Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç and Murat Sabuncu were among those whose sentences were upheld.

The appeals court ruled that the lower court’s decision was in compliance with the law in procedure and principle.

Atalay, Erinç, Çetinkaya, Sabuncu, Engin and Şık will be able to lodge an appeal with Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals as they had received sentences greater than five years in duration.

The court further ruled that although Şık was elected to the legislature last June, he cannot benefit from parliamentary immunity since “he was not a deputy at the time the crime was committed.”

Others such as cartoonist Musa Kart and writer Güray Öz, who received less than five years, will have to start serving their sentences.

Kart reacted to the ruling via Twitter, saying, “A statement just came from the government, which the people expect to come up with solutions to the current crises: ‘Put the cartoonist back in jail!’ Yes, time for me to go back to prison. Take care…”

“Luckily, I had made the final adjustments to my novel. We’ll not see each other for a while. Goodbye,” said writer Öz.

Şık tweeted a quote from Voltaire: “We have only two days to live. These days aren’t worth spending kneeling before worthless people.”

Since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, Turkey has jailed many journalists on terrorism-related charges.

According to a press freedom report that was recently released by the Council of Europe, Turkey is the world’s largest jailer of journalists and one of the worst performers in the world in terms of freedom of speech and media.

Turkey ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

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