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Turkish courtroom already circus as 'Cumhuriyet 17' trial opens

As outraged observers look on, the trial of 17 journalists and managers of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet began today, the anniversary of the end of Turkish press censorship in 1908.
Journalists and press freedom activists release balloons during a demonstration in solidarity with the members of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who were accused of supporting a terrorist group outside a courthouse, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer - RTX3CNRK

July 24 is the anniversary of the supposed lifting of press censorship in Turkey, an occasion that is marked by Turkish journalists as a day of celebration. It was therefore sadly ironic that the long awaited trial of 17 journalists and managers of Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s most respected opposition daily newspaper, started today. They face an outlandish range of thinly supported terror charges and each faces up to 43 years if convicted.

The “Cumhuriyet 17” include veteran columnist Kadri Gursel, who also writes for Al-Monitor; award-winning investigative reporter Ahmet Sik and cartoonist Musa Kart. Their plight is being watched closely by press watchdogs, lawmakers and fellow journalists from Turkey and beyond. The globally acclaimed French cartoonist Plantu was among those to lend support, sharing a biting image depicting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s suppression of the press via Twitter.

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