Turkey Cumhuriyet trial: Two journalists released on bail

Turkish military police secure the front of Silivri Prison during the trial of Cumhuriyet newspaper staff in Istanbul Image copyright EPA
Image caption The trial of Cumhuriyet journalists is being closely watched in Turkey

A Turkish court has released on bail two journalists who were held for over a year on terror-related charges.

The editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, Murat Sabuncu, and investigative reporter, Ahmet Sik, were both let out of jail, sparking jubilation among their supporters.

However, the pair remain charged and on trial. They deny the charges.

The staff from the newspaper were held as part of the crackdown that followed the failed coup of July 2016 .

More than 50,000 people were arrested and 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in its aftermath, including police, military personnel, teachers and public servants.

Turkish authorities accuse Cumhuriyet staff of supporting Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes headed the coup attempt, as well as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the ultra-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front.

Ankara defines all three as terror groups.

Mr Gulen, in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, denies the accusation.

'Glimmer of hope'

Supporters of the journalists in the Istanbul courthouse greeted the decision with cheers.

Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Sezgin Tanrikulu told AFP: "Justice cannot emerge out of this place but we are still here for our friends."

In a statement, Amnesty International said the ruling offered a "glimmer of hope" in a country where media has been hard hit.

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Riot police stood outside the court house prevented supporters from giving statements to the media

It is unclear when the court will announce a final verdict.

The paper's chairman, Akin Atalay, is still held in prison - the last of 17 jailed from the paper behind bars.

The hearing comes a day after 25 journalists were sentenced to jail for alleged links to Mr Gulen.

Many of those convicted worked for a prominent newspaper, Zaman, which authorities took control of in 2016.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the convictions and called for all of those found guilty to be freed immediately.

"Turkish authorities must stop equating journalism with terrorism, and release the scores of press workers jailed for doing their job," CPJ Europe and Central Asia programme co-ordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement

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