Seventeen journalists and managers at Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet were facing trial on Monday on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation, the media reported. If found guilty this week, they could face sentences of up to 43 years in jail. Ten have already been in pre-trial detention for almost nine months, reports the BBC.

At the Istanbul courthouse, a large crowd of supporters let off balloons and called for their release.

One of the journalists on trial is Turhan Gunay, 71, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper’s book supplement.

“I cannot touch him. I cannot hug him,” says his daughter, Elif, who is allowed to visit him once a week for an hour.

Elif says she still struggles to understand why he has been jailed.

“All I can say is that this is a political case. They are held for being journalists, for doing their jobs,” the BBC quoted Elif as saying.

The former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet Can Dundar is the number one suspect in the case.

Dundar was given a three-month jail term last year for espionage in another case but was released on bail. He now lives in exile in Germany.

Turkey is currently listed as the country with the biggest number of imprisoned journalists.

Journalist organisations say more than 150 journalists are behind bars, most of them accused of terror charges.

But the government contradicts that figure.

Speaking to the BBC earlier this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there were only two jailed journalists in the country.