(AFP)Turkish prosecutors Thursday demanded life sentences for nine suspects charged over their work at a now closed pro-Kurdish newspaper, including the internationally-renowned novelist Asli Erdogan.
The newspaper Ozgur Gundem was raided by the authorities in August and then shut down on accusations of links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The nine suspects, including Erdogan, have been charged with membership of an armed terror organization, making propaganda for a terror organization and seeking to disrupt national unity, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The full indictment and sentencing request from prosecutors have now been sent to the Istanbul criminal court which will decide within 15 days whether to accept it and proceed with the trial.
Four of the suspects are currently under arrest in pre-trial detention, while the others have been freed on remand.
Those charged also include the paper’s former editor-in-chief Zana Bilir Kaya and the prominent writer Ragip Zarakolu as well as other journalists and executives.
Erdogan, 49, one of Turkey’s best known contemporary female novelists, has now been held for 84 days, prompting growing concerns for her welfare among press freedom groups.
Supporters have said she suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes. She has published several novels including “The City in Crimson Cloak” which also appeared in English translation.
Turkey is in the throes of a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the failed July 15 coup.
Critics say its scope goes far beyond measures against the suspected coup plotters and is targeting any critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ten MPs from the country’s main pro-Kurdish party were arrested last week, as well as nine staff from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper. At least 35,000 people have been placed under arrest in the wake of the coup.
According to the indictment, the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, for which Erdogan wrote a column and sat on the board, acted as a mouthpiece for the PKK, promoted its activities and published writings by some of its most senior militants under pseudonyms.
The PKK had waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and has stepped up attacks after the collapse of a truce in 2015.
According to the Platform for Independent Journalism website, there are now 142 journalists behind bars in Turkey. Turkey is ranked 151st of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.