Seventeen journalists and managers at Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet went on trial on Monday on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation, BBC reports.
Ten have already been in pre-trial detention for almost nine months. If found guilty this week, they could face sentences of up to 43 years in jail.
At the Istanbul courthouse a large crowd of supporters let off balloons and called for their release.
There was chaos as they tried to enter the court for the start of the trial.
As the trial got under way in the packed courtroom, veteran Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gursel told the court that all the allegations against him were false and methods used to build the case against him illegal.
Supporters of the accused are adamant the trial is political.
“All I can say is that this is a political case. They are held for being journalists, for doing their jobs,” Elif Gunay, whose father Turhan Gunay is editor-in-chief of the newspaper’s book supplement told the BBC.
“I cannot touch him. I cannot hug him,” says Elif, who is allowed to visit her father once a week, for an hour.
“We talk over the phone behind a glass. When the time is up, they cut the line.
Just over a week ago, Turkey marked the first anniversary of a failed coup. There were massive commemorations held by thousands of jubilant people, hailing the day as the triumph of democracy.
But critics argue that day and the introduction of the state of emergency soon after – were actually the beginning of a massive crackdown, with more than 50,000 people arrested in the last year.
Press freedom groups say media has been particularly hard hit during this period, as about 150 media outlets have been shut down.
Turkey is currently listed as the country with the biggest number of imprisoned journalists.
Journalism organisations say more than 150 journalists are behind bars, most of them accused of terror charges.
But the government contradicts that figure.
photo credit: BBC