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Journalists on trial over Turkish coup plot

13 people – including 10 journalists – went on trial today accused of being involved in a plot to topple Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, Gen. Necdet Ozel, Turkey's new Land Forces Commander and acting Chief of Staff, left, and top army generals
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, Gen. Necdet Ozel, Turkey's new Land Forces Commander and acting Chief of Staff, left, and top army generals
Image: /AP/Press Association Images

TEN JOURNALISTS AND three other people went on trial today accused of being involved in an alleged plot to topple Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government, in a case that is a key test for press freedoms in Turkey.

The trial highlights growing concerns about threats to freedom of expression in the democratic, mostly Muslim nation that seeks membership in the European Union.

The government says it must prosecute an alleged network of hardline secularists accused of plotting a coup.

The journalists are accused of being the media wing of the alleged network and of aiding the conspiracy through alleged anti-government publications — charges they deny.

The defendants join the ranks of some 400 other people who are already on trial in an investigation — now in its fourth year — into the alleged hardline secularist group named Ergenekon.

Prosecutors say it plotted in 2003 to bring down the government through attacks that would have created chaos and sparked a military coup.

Critics say the trial is based on flimsy or fabricated evidence and aims to intimidate and muzzle government opponents.

Four hours after Tuesday’s opening hearing against the journalists began, trial was adjourned to wait for a ruling by a higher court on whether to replace the presiding judge.

Defence lawyers say that judge cannot be impartial because of a separate case that pits him against one of the journalists.

The court said it would decide whether to release the suspects from jail when it returns on 26 December.

The 13 defendants included investigative journalists Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik; writer and government critic Yalcin Kucuk and Soner Yalcin, the owner of Oda TV.

Journalists unfurled a banner outside the court calling for their colleagues to be released.

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