Turkish prosecutor demands aggravated life sentences for journalist Ilıcak and Altan brothers

Turkish prosecutor has demanded aggravated life imprisonment on Monday for prominent  author and journalists Ahmet Altan, his academic brother Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak over their alleged links to the Gülen movement during the hearing at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court. The court has also rejected all defendants’ demands for release from prisons where they have been kept for 13-15 months.

Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, writer and journalist brothers, and Ilıcak are among 17 defendants accused of being members of the alleged “media arm” of the Gülen movement. Politicised prosecutors  have claimed that Altan brothers, Ilıcak and other journalists tried in the case knew of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and allegedly conducted propaganda to pave the way for it.

As liberal democrat journalists and writers Ilıcak and the Altan brothers are accused of “calling for the military coup to take place and of intimate ties with the putschists, as well as senior figures of the Gülen movement,” by basing on no concrete evidences.

The three journalists’ discussion about anti-democratic situation on a TV show on Bugün TV, which was closed by Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two days before the coup attempt as evidence. Defendants said the program did not imply any coup.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the putsch. The prosecutor accuses the suspects of being linked to the Gülen movement and committing crimes on behalf of a “terrorist organization without being a member of it.”

The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ahmet Altan is a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the now-closed-down Taraf newspaper. The daily ran headlines that led to the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot investigations, which helped the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government subdue the role of the military in Turkish politics. After quitting Taraf, Altan resumed writing harsh critical columns against the increasingly authoritarian AKP government and President Erdoğan.

Mehmet Altan, an economics professor at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissidents. He was recently targeted by pro-Erdoğan columnist Hilal Kaplan for not being dismissed from his position at the university at a time when hundreds of academics and teachers were being expelled from their posts as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt.

The court in September ruled to separate the files of former Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş and journalists Tuncay Opçin and Emre Uslu from the case.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 7, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 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.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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