Turkey's Constitutional Court rejects appeals from four Cumhuriyet staff

Turkey’s highest legal body has rejected applications from four out of nine Turkish journalists who appealed against their jail sentences on grounds their rights had been infringed on.

Nine of the Constitutional Court (AYM)’s 15 judges voted against accepting the appeal by Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık and Bülent Utku, former staff of the secularist daily Cumhuriyet who were jailed in the wake of a coup attempt in July 2016 for alleged links to outlawed organisations.

The journalists were returned to prison last month after a court rejected their appeals against the long prison sentences handed to them and 11 other former staff at Cumhuriyet.

Turkish prosecutors say the journalists aided both the Gülen religious movement, which the government blames for the 2016 coup attempt, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has fought Turkish security forces since the 1980s.

Ahmet Şık, an investigative journalist, spent around a year in jail from March 2011 after publishing a book critical of the Gülen movement and its founder, Fethullah Gülen.

The AYM ruled in favour of Kadri Gürsel, a former Cumhuriyet journalist, and Murat Aksoy, who wrote for the shuttered daily Yeni Hayat, who had been hit with similar charges.

The court ruled that Gürsel and Aksoy’s personal freedoms and security and freedom of expression had been breached, and ordered 40,000 lira ($6,700) compensation paid to Aksoy, Turkish news site Gazete Duvar reported.

The AYM will convene again on Friday to review appeals by two more journalists sentenced in relation to the 2016 coup attempt, Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.

International rights groups have expressed long-running concerns about press freedom in Turkey, which has been known as the world's leading jailer of journalists for years running.