ISTANBUL - Twenty-six people went on trial in Istanbul on Thursday on charges related to organizing anti-government protests last year in a case that rights activists have described as a scandal.

The defendants join an estimated 5,500 people on trial in 95 separate prosecutions, including some on terrorism charges, according to Turkish rights groups, linked to the unrest that challenged Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's decade in power.

In the latest court case, five of the defendants are accused of forming a criminal organization - which they deny - and could face up to 30 years in prison, lawyers said.

The indictment cites, among its primary pieces of evidence, messages on social-media websites Twitter and Facebook that encouraged people to come to public protests.

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