The International Press Institute (IPI), together with other leading international free expression groups as well as international journalists, today continued observing the trial against journalists and staff of Turkey’s last major critical newspaper.

This morning, international observers joined the colleagues and families of the jailed journalist at Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul as Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu was called to testify. Sabuncu, who was asked to defend past headline choices made by Cumhuriyet even prior to his term as editor, echoed yesterday’s testimonies in pointing out that all the evidence presented covered legitimate journalistic work, and denounced what he called the government’s attack on press freedom.

In the afternoon, a lengthy testimony was given by Cumhuriyet board member and lawyer Bülent Utku, who described in-depth the articles used as the basis for the prosecutor’s allegations and slammed the indictments as “lawless”. Noting that Cumhuriyet had “paid a price” for its objectivity and independence, Utku expressed his lack of faith in receiving a fair trial.

The trial resumed in the evening, after a break, with more testimony. First, Cumhuriyet ombudsman Güray Tekin Öz rejected any involvement with the failed 2016 coup d’état or with Gülenists.

Long-time Cumhuriyet board member Önder Çelik then addressed the court, rejecting all of the accusations against him.

Last, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, also board member of Turkey’s daily, claimed in his testimony that all financial transactions of Cumhuriyet foundation were completely legal.

IPI, together with international partners including the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), PEN International and its branches in Norway, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, and the Netherlands, the European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ and IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has repeatedly called for authorities to release the journalists from prison and for the court to dismiss all charges.

The Cumhuriyet journalists will continue their defence in court tomorrow at 1.30PM. Trial is expected to last until Friday.