Turkey Releases Five Opposition Journalists From Prison

Accused of supporting 'terror groups' after the 2016 failed coup, Cumhuriyet staff had been in jail for over two years

The released journalists pose for a photo after their release from Kandira prison, September  12, 2019.

Turkey's state-run news agency says five jailed journalists and staff members of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper have been freed on the orders of an appeals court.

Anadolu Agency said cartoonist Musa Kart and four other Cumhuriyet employees were released from their prison in northwest Turkey late on Thursday.

The journalists were convicted on terror-related charges, accused of supporting terror groups, including the Kurdistan Workers Party, the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front and the network led-by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.

The journalists had been in and out of jail for more than two years since being sentenced. They were briefly freed while appealing their convictions, which were upheld in February by a court in Istanbul. They were then returned to Kandira prison near Istanbul to serve the rest of their sentences.

Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals ordered on Thursday the release of six of the newspaper's former employees.

Cumhuriyet is one of the few newspapers critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the case against its employees increased concerns over press freedom in Turkey.

Some 130 journalists remain jailed in the country.

Reuters contributed to this report.