A Turkish court has sentenced six journalists to life in jail for alleged links to the July 2016 coup plotters.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the Turkish court’s decision to sentence the journalists to life in prison without parole and called on Turkish authorities to release them without delay.
The court ruling was condemned by human rights groups, including the UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The judgment came as another Turkish court decided to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who has been held for a year without charge.
The six were found guilty of links to US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, blamed for the failed coup.
“These harsh sentences are an unacceptable and unprecedented assault on freedom of expression and on the media in Turkey,” said David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, and Harlem Désir, the representative on media freedom for the OSCE.
The sentenced journalists are Nazli Ilicak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Fevzi Yazici, Yakup Simsek and Sükrü Tugrul Özsengül.
The Istanbul court found them guilty of “attempting to abolish the order prescribed by the Turkish constitution or to bring in a new order”, Turkish media reported.
All six denied the charges.
The Altan brothers – veteran journalists and writers – were accused of giving coded messages in a television talk show on the eve of the coup attempt.
Ilicak is a well-known journalist in Turkey and has written for a number of newspapers, including Hürriyet and Sabah.
Military officers led a mutiny against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15 2016, which resulted in the deaths of 250 civilian protesters.
Since the abortive coup the Turkish authorities have jailed more than 50 000 people and dismissed more than 150 000 public servants, including journalists, teachers, police and justice officials.
Mehmet Altan, who is also an economics professor, had won a Constitutional Court ruling in his favour – but it was overruled on Friday.
Separately, Die Welt journalist Deniz Yücel – who holds German-Turkish dual citizenship – was freed from jail on Friday. He had been accused of spreading propaganda.
A German human rights activist still faces trial in Turkey.
Germany has repeatedly criticised the erosion of democracy in Turkey. And Turkey accuses Germany of harbouring terror supporters. – BBC and Al Jazeera