Turkish court sentences six journalists to life, including Altan brothers

Frederick Owens
February 18, 2018

A Turkish court on Friday sentenced six people, including three journalists, to life in prison for allegedly being involved in the failed coup attempt of July 2016, state media reported.

Ahmet Altan, a former newspaper chief editor, and his brother, Mehmet Altan - a columnist and academic - were accused of appearing together with veteran journalist Ilicak in a political debate show on a Gulen-linked television channel.

Prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak was also among those sentenced. More than 110,000 others have been sacked from government jobs.

"These harsh sentences are an unacceptable and unprecedented assault on freedom of expression and on the media in Turkey", said David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Harlem Désir, the Representative on Media Freedom for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The court imposed aggravated life sentences on the six defendants who were found guilty of "seeking to overthrow the constitutional order by force", the state-run Anadolu news agency.

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In January, Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay - another journalist being tried separately - should be released pending the outcome of their trials. The trial court rejected the ruling, flouting the constitution, echoing the government's criticism of the Constitutional Court's judgment.

Reports say the convicts were accused of having links to a movement headed by exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, regarded by authorities to be behind the failed coup.

"This sets a devastating precedent for scores of other journalists charged with similarly groundless charges", said Sarah Clarke, of writers organisation PEN International.

"Of course we are going to appeal the verdict", the lawyer told AP.

Today's verdict & sentences of life without parole for #AhmetAltan, #MehmetAltan & #NazliIlicak mark an apex of the disintegration of the #Ruleoflaw in #Turkey.

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