Turkey puts 44 journalists on trial for terrorism


A placard is pictured during a protest gathering journalists and human right activists in front of the courthouse in Istanbul during the trial of two prominent Turkish journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener on Nov. 22, 2011.


Mustafa Ozer

The trial of 44 journalists who are accused of terrorism began in Turkey Monday. It is the country's biggest-ever court case against members of the press.  

Thirty-six of the journalists have been detained since December, the Guardian reported

"This trial is clearly political," Ertugrul Mavioglu, an investigative journalist whose own terrorism charges were dropped in December last year, told the Guardian. "The government wants to set an example; it wants to intimidate. Journalists are being told: 'There are limits on what you are allowed to say.'"

The charges against the journalists include membership in an armed organization, which carries a 15-year prison sentence, and forming and running an armed organization, which is punishable by 22 years in jail, NOW Lebanon reported

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"None of these journalists used weapons or glorified violence, but they are prosecuted for membership in a terrorist organization," said Ilhan Cihaner, lawmaker from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Now Lebanon reported. "It is not acceptable."

The journalists on trial are just some of the thousands to have been arrested and detained for supposed links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in the country and viewed as a terrorist group by Turkey and the the European Union, Reuters reported

There has been a recent uptick in violence as a result of the 28-year battle with the PKK, according to Reuters: over 800 people have been killed in PKK-related clashes since June 2011. 

Over 100 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey, more than in Iran and China, according to the Guardian. Roughly 800 others are facing charges, and still others have been forced from their jobs due to pressure from the Turkish government. 

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