Journalists Nazlı Ilıcak (R), Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Fevzi Yazıcı are in prison since September 2016.
A Turkish court has sentenced six prominent journalists to life in jail over the country’s controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Three were sentenced on charges of aiding the Gülen movement, even after Turkey’s top court had ordered the release of one of them.
İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in the Silivri Prison Complex has given aggravated life sentences on Friday for prominent journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak; two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper: brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı; and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül.
Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his journalist/novelist brother Ahmet Altan, were charged with giving subliminal messages in a television talk show a day before the abortive coup attempt. Nazlı Ilıcak, another veteran journalist, was also handed life imprisonment.
Three other defendants, including Yazıcı and Şimşek, were also sentenced to life in prison for allegedly trying to abolish the constitution and overthrow the government. The court acquitted advertising company manager Tibet Murat Sanlıman. Sanlıman was earlier released on his own recognizance.
“The Supreme Court and Constitutional Court decisions show that I am innocent,” Nazlı Ilıcak said in her closing statement. “I ask for you to give your decision in the context of those precedents and I request my acquittal.”
“I have been tried hundreds of times,” Ahmet Altan said. “I have been tried under military rule, in the Feb. 28 (1997) trials and by the freaks called the State Security Courts (DGM). This is the first time I have faced a court that is carrying out a constitutional crime. As far as I am aware, there is no equivalent in either Ottoman or republican history.”
Turkey’s judiciary is being criticized for acting on orders from Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and not basing their rulings on the law. Judges in Turkey who make decisions that anger Erdoğan are either replaced or jailed.
Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Ilıcak are among 17 defendants accused of membership in the alleged “media arm” of the Gülen movement, which is blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding the failed coup on a TV show a day before the putsch. The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Erdoğan.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 245 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 24, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 218 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 140 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.