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Turkish novelist on trial after four months behind bars

AFP , Thursday 29 Dec 2016
Turkish novelists trial
Main Opposition MP's of People's Republic Party (CHP) Baris Yardas(5th L) and Sezgin Tanrikulu (4th L) speak during a press conference on December 29, 2016 at Istanbul's courthouse before the start of the trial of Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan (Photo: AP)
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One of Turkey's most prominent contemporary novelists appeared in court for the first time on Thursday on charges of terror propaganda, in case that has caused an international outcry over freedom of expression in the country.

Novelist Asli Erdogan has been held in jail for 132 days since her detention over her links to a pro-Kurdish newspaper the authorities regard as a mouthpiece for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Also on trial is Necmiye Alpay, an internationally prominent linguist who has also made widely praised translations of Western novels into Turkish. She has been held behind bars for 120 days.

They were taken into custody in August as part of a probe into the now shut-down pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem.

Including Erdogan, 49, and Alpay, 70, a total of nine suspects linked to Ozgur Gundem have been charged in the case.

Erdogan is no relation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- the name is common in Turkey. There had been reports in November the pair were being released but these were swiftly denied.

She has published several well-received novels including "The City in Crimson Cloak", which was also translated into English.

"They are being prosecuted for writings and thoughts that are in no way reprehensible according to Turkish law," said Baris Yarkadas, Istanbul MP for the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

Dozens of people gathered outside the courthouse ahead of the hearing to support the defendants.

"We are here not just to show solidarity with the accused but also to defend democracy," said Murat, 48.

"It's now or never, otherwise it's too late and dictatorship is there."

Activists worry about a drastically worsening climate for journalists in Turkey, in particular since the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the July 15 coup.

According to the P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, 118 journalists have been arrested during the state of emergency, 80 of them within the coup probe.

Turkish authorities on Thursday detained prize-winning journalist Ahmet Sik over a succession of tweets and articles for an opposition daily.

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