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Turkey Sentences Two Journalists Over Cartoon of Prophet Muhammad

FILE - Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, right, and Erdem Gul, left, the paper's Ankara representative, speak to the media after their trial in Istanbul, Friday, March 25, 2016.

Turkey sentenced two journalists to two years in prison for blasphemy after reprinting a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

A court in Istanbul convicted Cumhuriyet newspapers' columnists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya Thursday on charges of inciting “public hatred,” but acquitted them of “insulting religious values.”

"We will appeal [the ruling]. We will not leave this country to fascists in Islam sauce," Karan said on Twitter.

Turkey's constitution strictly separates state and religion but its penal code makes it a crime to insult religion.

For their columns in Cumhuriyet, Karan and Cetinkaya reprinted the caricature of the Prophet Mohammad following the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris in a show of solidarity with the magazine.

The judgment against them is likely to fuel reactions about freedom of expression in Turkey where newspapers have been seized and a number of journalists have been sued for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Cumhuriyet chief editor Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul are facing possible life imprisonment over charges of espionage and of trying to topple the government after publishing video last May purporting to show Turkey's state intelligence agency helping to ship weapons to Syria in 2014.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 151st out of 180 countries in the world press freedom index rankings in 2016, released last week.