Turkey court acquits exiled novelist of terror charges

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Friday acquitted journalist and award-winning novelist Asli Erdogan of terrorism-related charges for writing for a pro-Kurdish newspaper that has since been shut-down.

Lawyer Erdal Dogan told reporters that the court in Istanbul acquitted the author, who lives in exile in Germany, of being a member of “an armed terrorist organization” and of “disrupting the unity of state,” while dropping, on a technicality, charges of engaging in “propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The court also acquitted Asli Erdogan’s colleagues Bilge Aykut and Necmiye Alpay. The trial against other co-defendants, including human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, is to continue, after their lawyers requested additional time to prepare for their final defense.

“This is a case of freedom of thought and expression,” Dogan told The Associated Press outside the courthouse. “From now on, we hope results like these are achieved for all journalists under arrest and for all journalists that are on trial.”

“We also hope other journalists in this case and Miss Eren (Keskin) are acquitted,” Dogan added.

Asli Erdogan and her co-defendants were among tens of thousands of people arrested in the aftermath of a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The opposition accused Erdogan’s government of using emergency powers meant to deal with perpetrators of the failed military coup, to go after all government critics.

Asli Erdogan— who is not related to President Erdogan — was arrested in August 2016 with other staff members of the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, which the government accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels. She spent four months in prison before being freed pending the outcome of the trial.

Asli Erdogan, 52, was facing a maximum sentence of nine years and four months in prison. Her novels include “The City in Crimson Cloak” and “The Stone Building and Other Places.” She lives in exile in Germany.

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Suzan Fraser contributed to this report.

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