A Turkish court on Friday convicted six journalists and one other employee of a government-critical newspaper of aiding the network of a US-based cleric who is accused of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 despite his strong denial of any involvement, The Associated Press reported.
The seven were accused of supporting the coup through their work for the Sözcü newspaper, which has been critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They all deny the accusations and are expected to appeal the verdicts.
The case has intensified concerns over a crackdown under Erdoğan on news coverage critical of his administration.
Columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru were sentenced to three years, six months in prison, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The paper’s chief editor Metin Yılmaz and its online edition’s managing editor, Mustafa Çetin, received just over three years in prison, while online news editor Yücel Arı, financial manager Yonca Yücelan and journalist Gökmen Ulu were sentenced to two-year prison terms.
The court in İstanbul acquitted one journalist, Mediha Olgun, of the charges.
A case against the paper’s owner, Burak Akbay, who is living abroad and being tried in absentia, is to continue separately, Anadolu reported.
Turkey accuses Gülen of orchestrating the coup and has branded his network a terrorist organization. Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, denies any involvement in the coup attempt.
Turkey is ranked the highest jailer of journalists in the world, after China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Turkish Journalists Union says at least 108 journalists or media sector employees are currently in prison.