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Turkey jails journalists for printing Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad

Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan jailed for republishing image from Charlie Hebdo after Paris attacks on magazine's offices
A protester holds a placard outside the offices of Cumhuriyet on 4 January 2016 (AFP)

A Turkish court on Thursday jailed two prominent journalists for two years for illustrating their columns with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, their lawyer said. 

The sentencing of the columnists for the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan, comes amid growing alarm over press freedoms in Turkey.

"The two journalists were sentenced to two years each in jail," said defence lawyer Bulent Utku. "But we will appeal against the ruling."

Karan and Cetinkaya went on trial in January last year on charges of "inciting public hatred" and "insulting religious values" after illustrating their columns with the cartoon. 

The opposition Cumhuriyet had published a four-page Charlie Hebdo pullout, translated into Turkish, which marked the French magazine's first issue since the deadly attack on its Paris offices by militants in 2015. 

The edition did not include the controversial front cover featuring the prophet, but a smaller version of the cartoon was included twice inside the newspaper to illustrate work by Karan and Cetinkaya.

Most media in Turkey had refrained from publishing the cover and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the time had condemned the publication of cartoons of the Muslim prophet as an "open provocation". 

Cumhuriyet, which staunchly opposes the Islamic-rooted government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been regularly targeted by prosecutions as concerns grow over freedom of speech in Turkey.

Its editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul are currently on trial on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.

Karan, on her Twitter account @ceydak, lashed out at the Turkish government, saying: "Let our two-year sentence be a gift for our liberal fascists #JeSuisCharlie."

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