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U.S. 'Gravely Concerned' About Indictments Against 16 Turkish Civil Society Leaders

Turkish journalist Can Dundar

Washington says it is "gravely concerned" with a decision by Turkish prosecutors to file indictments against 16 civil society leaders, including a prominent philanthropist and a journalist.

The U.S. State Department said on February 23 that Turkey should “respect” the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the ability of people to exercise those rights is “fundamental to any healthy democracy.”

Those indicted this week include Osman Kavala, a prominent philanthropist who had been in pretrial detention without charges for 477 days.

Charges also have been issued against Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, who fled to Germany in 2016.

They are accused of financing and coordinating the 2013 Gezi Park antigovernment protests near Taksim Square in Istanbul, which called for the resignation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If convicted, they could face life in prison.

However, the Turkish courts have not yet accepted the charges.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa