- Associated Press - Friday, March 1, 2019

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - A court in Istanbul on Friday convicted a former opposition party lawmaker of aiding a network led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, and sentenced him to more than four years in prison, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.

Anadolu Agency said the court convicted ex-opposition Republican People’s Party legislator Eren Erdem of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terror organization.”

Turkey says Gulen was behind a 2016 failed coup and has branded his network as a terrorist organization. Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, denies involvement in the attempted coup that left some 250 people dead.

Turkey has arrested some 77,000 people as part of a massive crackdown launched against the network and other outlawed groups since the coup attempt. Around 130,000 other people have been dismissed from state jobs.

The ex-lawmaker is accused of supporting Gulen while he was editor of Karsi newspaper, which published voice recordings in 2013 that suggested widespread government corruption - allegations the government says were fabricated by Gulen’s network.

The newspaper’s owner, Turan Ababey, was also sentenced to four years and two months in prison on the same charge, while two other defendants were acquitted.

Erdem, who was arrested in June, denies the accusations and was expected to appeal.

Opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted him as telling the court in his own defense on Friday that the only two groups he supported were the Republican People’s Party and the Turkish soccer club Besiktas.

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