Veteran journalist Ilıcak sentenced to 5 years, 10 months over ‘state security’

Veteran Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak was arrested on July 29, 2016.

Veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak (75), who has been jailed since August 29, 2016 on trumped-up coup charges, was sentenced in another case to five years, 10 months in prison on Tuesday by the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court for disclosing confidential information crucial to state security.

In January 2018 the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a new indictment for Ilıcak accusing the journalist of “disclosing confidential information crucial to state security for the purpose of espionage” according to Article 330/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, in a column titled “Military Intelligence and Tahşiyeciler” published on January 2, 2015 in the government-seized Bugün daily. Intelligence documents prepared by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the General Staff Intelligence Department and police intelligence had reportedly revealed close links between radical jihadist group Tahşiyeciler and the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Ilıcak, who attended the fifth and final hearing via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS), told the panel of judges that “according to the Turkish Press Law, an investigation must be opened within four months of a news report’s publication, whereas in my case the prosecutor opened a case three years after it was published.”

Claiming she had not even seen the new documents and evidence submitted by the prosecutor, Ilıcak said: “I cannot defend myself without having seen them. This is a violation of my right to a fair trial.”

The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court later sentenced Ilıcak to five years, 10 months in prison for disclosing confidential information crucial to state security but ruled against the espionage charge.

Ilıcak was arrested immediately following a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. She was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on February 16, 2018 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The chief prosecutor of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals earlier in January had recommended reversal of the aggravated life sentence handed down to Ilıcak on coup charges, saying the journalist should have been tried on terrorism charges.

Tahşiyeciler came to public notice in 2009 when police raided cells operated by the radical Islamist group and found caches of weapons in safe houses. Many of its members were arrested, charged and tried.

The government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan helped extricate the group from legal troubles in 2014 when Mehmet Doğan, the leader of the group, was vouched for by Erdoğan. At the invitation of the government several members of the radical group filed a complaint against the police chiefs and prosecutors who had investigated the al-Qaeda-linked group and journalists who wrote critically about it.

In July 2014, based on these complaints, the Erdoğan government arrested 76 top police inspectors who were involved in investigating the group and had uncovered a corruption network in which Erdoğan and his associates were implicated.

Former chairman of the now-closed Samanyolu Broadcasting Group  Hidayet Karaca was sentenced to life in prison along with top police chiefs on charges of membership in a “terrorist organization” and for allegedly slandering the al-Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group Tahşiyeciler on February 7, 2018.

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