Jailed journalist Baransu faces 45 years in prison for revealing state secrets

A Turkish prosecutor has demanded a prison sentence of up to 45 years for a jailed journalist on various accusations concerning the revelation of state secrets in a news report about an alleged military coup attempt known as Sledgehammer, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Sledgehammer was an alleged coup plot against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) drafted in 2003. The military is claimed to have planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power.

Former Taraf daily reporter Mehmet Baransu, an outspoken critic of the AKP government, is standing trial along with Taraf’s former editor-in-chief, Ahmet Altan, its former deputy editor-in-chief, Yasemin Çongar, and former editor Yıldıray Oğur who face lengthy sentences on accusations of obtaining and revealing state secrets in a report on the Sledgehammer coup plot published in the daily in 2010.

Journalist Tuncay Opçin is also a suspect in the case, but he is currently at large.

In the last hearing of the trial at a high criminal court in İstanbul on Wednesday, the prosecutor announced his recommendations for prison sentences for the defendants.

Baransu attended the hearing via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from Silivri Prison in İstanbul, where he has been jailed since March 2015.

The prosecutor demanded the lengthy prison sentence for Baransu on consecutive charges of revealing state secrets, obtaining documents concerning state security and partially or completely destroying documents concerning state security.

The prosecutor demanded prison sentences of up to 15 years for the remaining defendants other than Opçin on charges of revealing state secrets. The prosecutor recommended that Opçin’s file be separated from the others.

In a previous court statement, Baransu said Sledgehammer was an authentic coup plot. “I would have written about it today [if I had the chance]. I would have notified [the judicial authorities] about this crime, as a journalist, as a citizen. If I had not written that news report, I would have committed a crime,” Baransu had said earlier in his defense.

The journalist is facing other prison sentences in separate trials.

The Sledgehammer coup plot included bombing two major mosques in Istanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tensions with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane and blaming the incident on Turkey’s Aegean neighbor.

An İstanbul court sentenced 331 of the 365 Sledgehammer suspects to prison on Sept. 21, 2012, while 34 were acquitted. Three retired generals were sentenced to life in prison on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force,” but the sentences were later reduced to 20 years because of the “incomplete attempt at staging a coup,” the court said.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court handed down a ruling in June 2014 stating that the rights of a majority of the defendants convicted in the Sledgehammer coup plot case had been violated vis-à-vis “digital data and the defendants’ testimonies.”

Turkey, which is among top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index published in April.

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