Turkish prosecutors accuse 17 employees of "Cumhuriyet" newspaper of aiding the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).

The courthouse where the trail of the "Cumhuriyet" staff got underway in Istanbul, Turkey, July 24, 2017.
The courthouse where the trail of the "Cumhuriyet" staff got underway in Istanbul, Turkey, July 24, 2017.

Seventeen employees of Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper went on trial on Monday accused of supporting a terrorist group.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to 43 years in jail for staff from the paper, including some of Turkey's best-known journalists. They are accused of targeting the presidency and government through "asymmetric war methods."

Cumhuriyet is accused of writing stories that serve "separatist manipulation."

The newspaper's editor Murat Sabuncu and other senior staff have been in pre-trial detention since being arrested in November.

Other defendants include columnist Kadri Gursel, the paper's editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart and Ahmet Sik, who once wrote a book critical of Gulen's movement. Former editor Can Dundar, who is in Germany, is being tried in absentia.

The newspaper has called the charges "imaginary accusations and slander." Social media posts comprised the bulk of evidence in the indictment, along with allegations that staff had been in contact with users of Bylock, an encrypted messaging app the government says was used by followers of US-based Fetullah Gulen.

TRT World's Francis Collings has more details.

FETO connection alleged

According to the 324-page indictment, Cumhuriyet was effectively taken over by the Gulen network, known in Turkey as FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organisation).

Ankara accuses FETO of orchestrating the failed putsch last July. Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup.

In a crackdown since last July's failed coup, 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 detained or dismissed from their jobs. Some 150 media outlets have been shut down and around 160 journalists are in jail, according to the Turkish Journalists' Association.

Turkish authorities say the crackdown is justified by the gravity of the coup attempt, in which rogue soldiers tried to overthrow the government and Erdogan, killing 250 people, most of them civilians.

Source: TRT World