Top court’s prosecutor asks for revocation of rulings in prominent journalists’ trial

The chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has asked for revocation of the aggravated life sentences handed down to five journalists on coup charges, saying that the journalists should be given sentences on terrorism charges, Turkish media reports said on Thursday.

A regional appeals court in İstanbul in October 2018 upheld aggravated life sentences handed down to five jailed journalists including prominent figures Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.

The journalists were given the sentences by the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in February 2018 after their conviction of attempting to overturn the constitutional order.

Yakup Şimşek, Brand marketing manager of now- closed Zaman Daily

Two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, Zaman brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı, along with former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, are the other defendants in the trial who were given aggravated life sentences.

The appeals process of the journalists and Özşengül is currently taking place at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals where the court’s chief prosecutor asked for the revocation of the regional appeals court’s rulings.

The prosecutor said the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should be tried not on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order but knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, which calls for a prison sentence of from five to 10 years.

As for the case of Şimşek, Yazıcı and Özşengül, the prosecutor said they should stand trial on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, which entails a prison sentence of between seven-and-a-half and 15 years.

If the Supreme Court of Appeals makes a ruling in line with the opinion of the prosecutor, the journalists will be retried.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the abortive putsch.

Other than Mehmet Altan, the five other journalists in the trial are behind bars. Mehmet Altan was released pending appeal in June 2018 based on a Constitutional Court ruling in the January of the same year.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 241 journalists and media workers were in jail as of January 9, 2019, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 166 were under arrest pending trial while only 75 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living 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 some 200 media outlets after the coup attempt in July 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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