Turkey seeks life sentences in pro-Kurdish newspaper trial: state media

A journalist of pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem gives an interview to a German TV channel at their newsroom before a protest against the arrest of three prominent campaigners for press freedom, in front of the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish prosecutors are seeking long jail terms or life sentences for nine staff of a pro-Kurdish newspaper, including prize-winning novelist Asli Erdogan, on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and harming national unity, state-run media said on Thursday.

Erdogan, who is not related to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, was jailed pending trial in August after police detained her and two dozen more staff from the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, which was closed by court order on a charge of spreading propaganda of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“In the imprisonment and jail sentences of up 17-1/2 years were sought for the nine suspects,” state-run Anadolu Anadolu said.

Turkey has closed more than 130 media outlets since a state of emergency was declared following a failed military coup on July 15, stirring concern among Western allies and rights groups about deteriorating press freedoms.

The nine suspects are writers and executives from the newspaper, Anadolu said. Erdogan was a member of the paper’s advisory board. Lawyers declined comment on the Anadolu report.

Ozgur Gundem focuses on the PKK conflict in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and has faced dozens of investigations, fines and the arrest of correspondents since 2014.

The PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, has waged a three-decade insurgency seeking autonomy for some 15 million Kurds in Turkey. More than 40,000 people have died in the violence.

Additional reporting by Birsen Altayli and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Mark Trevelyan