No detainees left in Özgür Gündem daily case

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İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı were released from Silivri Prison on Oct. 31.

An İstanbul court has released İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı, the last two journalists who were behind bars for alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily case.

Kızılkaya has been in prison since Aug. 26, 2016 on charges of membership in an armed organization and disrupting the unity and integrity of the state. Sancılı was jailed on Jan. 3, 2017 on the same charges.

A Turkish court in August 2016 ordered the interim closure of Özgür Gündem for alleged links to the PKK, spreading “terrorist propaganda” on their behalf and waging a war against the state.

Özgür Gündem, along with 14 other media outlets, was shut down in line with a post-coup government decree on Oct. 29, 2016.

Columnists and consultative committee members Filiz Koçali, Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Ragıp Zarakolu, Zana Kaya, Eren Keskin and Bilge Aykut are among the suspects in the case.

In another case concerning Özgür Gündem, Professor Beyza Üstün and journalist Ekrem Murat Çelikkan, who stood trial separately for serving as “editor-in-chief on duty” for the daily, were handed down suspended sentences of 15 months and 18 months, respectively, in May on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

Üstün and Çelikkan were among a group of intellectuals and press freedom activists who launched a campaign in solidarity with the daily, which was under heavy government pressure, between May 3 and Aug. 7, 2016. Prominent journalists and academics served as the “editor-in-chief on duty” for the newspaper in an act of solidarity.

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 37 journalists, academics and activists for acting as “editors-in-chief on duty” for the Özgür Gündem daily last year.

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