7 staff members of opposition newspaper leave Turkish jail
ISTANBUL (AP) — Seven staff members of an opposition newspaper were released from a Turkish jail early Saturday pending the outcome of their trial on charges of allegedly aiding terror organizations. A court ruled for the release of Cumhuriyet newspaper's cartoonist Musa Kart and six others Friday, but ordered four others to remain held.
The daily newspaper is staunchly opposed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is one of the few remaining outlets in Turkey critical of the government. A total of 19 defendants went on trial Monday for allegedly aiding several outlawed organizations, including Kurdish militants, a far-left group and the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government blames for a failed coup last year.
Upon being released from prison, Kart told reporters they had been imprisoned for nine months for "unjust, lawless, baseless allegations." He said the indictment would collapse with their release. Their families and supporters embraced them outside the prison on the outskirts of Istanbul. The terms of their release bar them from leaving Turkey.
"I thought I'd be very happy at the moment of my release," the 63-year-old cartoonist said. "Unfortunately, four of our friends are still in Silivri prison." Cumhuriyet's editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, prominent columnist Kadri Gursel and chairman Akin Atalay remain behind bars.
The Cumhuriyet arrests are part of a wider crackdown in the aftermath of last summer's bloody coup attempt that has led to the imprisonment of more than 50,000 people. Critics say the crackdown that initially targeted people suspected of links to the failed coup has expanded to include government opponents. Among the jailed are opposition lawmakers, activists, and more than 150 journalists.