Turkish pop star Atilla Tas and 28 others, most of them journalists, are being tried in Istanbul on terrorism charges over alleged links to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey.
They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of membership in “an armed terrorist organization,” in a massive government crackdown that has seen more than 100 media outlets closed and more than 41,000 people arrested since July.
Turkish state media said Tas and several others are charged with managing a Twitter account that spread propaganda on behalf of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of masterminding the coup attempt.
Gulen has denied any knowledge of the plot.
Human rights groups say Turkey has jailed about 150 journalists, many of whom were arrested before the botched insurrection, for alleged ties to Kurdish rebels who are fighting the Turkish state. The Reporters Without Borders group ranked Turkey at 151st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index last year.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists the crackdown was essential for the stability of the country. But critics say the detentions show Turkey is becoming more authoritarian under the Islamist leader.
This trial is being closely watched in Turkey, which holds a referendum on April 16 on whether to expand the powers of the presidency.