Court issues reasoned judgment in Altans case
Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak’s political commentary on TV and their articles cited among grounds for conviction
The criminal court that oversaw the trial of jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, columnist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, former Zaman staffers Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül issued its reasoned judgment in writing on 4 December 2019, exactly one month after the retrial concluded.
At the end of the retrial, ordered by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the 26th High Criminal Court had acquitted Mehmet Altan but convicted Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” handing down prison sentences of 10 years and 6 months and 8 years and 9 months, respectively, and ordering their release pending appeal. However, a week after the court’s release order, Ahmet Altan was rearrested at the request of the prosecutor who objected to his release.
The court had also convicted their co-defendants Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül of “membership of a terrorist group,” sentencing all three to prison terms above 10 years and ordering the continuation of their detention.
At the end of the original trial, in February 2018, the trial court had sentenced all six to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.” The indictment alleged that all defendants in the case had prior knowledge of the coup attempt in July 2016.
Commentary on TV and articles “cannot be deemed journalism”
In its 86-page reasoned judgment, the 26th High Criminal Court wrote that Ahmet Altan’s “proven acts that cannot be deemed journalistic activity were of a nature that served the objectives of the [FETÖ/PDY] organization.” The panel of judges held that Altan’s role as the founder and editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Taraf newspaper, his articles published online in the news portal haberdar.com, his articles titled “Ben buradayım benimle konuşun” (I Am Here, Speak with Me) “Mutlak korku” (Absolute fear), “Ezip geçmek” (Beating all hollow) and “Montezuma”; as well as his political commentary on Can Erzincan TV one day ahead of the attempted coup, all of which were held as evidence against him in the case file, were “of a nature that served the interests and objectives of FETÖ/PDY and constituted the crime of aiding the armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure.”
The court wrote that the grounds for the sentence imposed on Ahmet Altan to be above the minimum sentence prescribed in law was “the intensity of malice aforethought.”
The judges also wrote that Nazlı Ilıcak’s actions could not be deemed journalistic activity. Being a long-time columnist in “media companies that supported [FETÖ/PDY]”; her 2012 book titled Her Taşın Altında “The Cemaat” mi Var? (Is ‘The Movement’ behind everything?); her political commentary during the program she co-hosted on Can Erzincan TV; as well as her Twitter posts were cited among the grounds for the sentence Ilıcak was given. The judgment said the panel granted a reduction in Ilıcak’s sentence “because she showed remorse during the course of the proceedings.”
No clear and convincing evidence against Mehmet Altan
About its ruling concerning Mehmet Altan, the court wrote that the case file “lacked fact-based grounds that could lead the panel to form the opinion that the defendant acted in line with the objectives of the armed terrorist organization FETÖ/PDY or intended to lay the groundworks for a probable military coup” and that therefore the panel ruled for his acquittal.
The court cited former Zaman staff members Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek’s employment with the shuttered newspaper, their savings accounts at Bank Asya, as well as their alleged “involvement” in the making of a 2015 TV commercial for Zaman, deemed to include references to an impending military coup, as the grounds for the convictions against Yazıcı and Şimşek on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.”
As for Özşengül, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the same charge, the court wrote that his “commentary during a program titled ‘Özgürlük Zamanı’ (Time for freedom), aired online on the day of the attempted coup on STV, where he appeared alongside other media components of the [FETÖ] organization” was considered as evidence by the court in reaching “the conclusion and the opinion that he acted as a member of FETÖ/PDY in line with the organization’s objectives and interests.”
Five defendants convicted of terrorism-related charges as retrial of Altans case concludes; Mehmet Altan acquitted
Novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak were both convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on 4 November 2019, at the end of the retrial of the “coup” case against them. The court ruled to release both, taking into consideration the time they spent in pre-trial detention.
Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court convicted three of their co-defendants — Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — of “membership in a terrorist group” and ruled for the continuation of their detention.
Mehmet Altan was acquitted and the judicial control measures imposed on him were lifted.
Altan and Ilıcak were released from the Silivri Prison and Bakırköy Women’s Prison respectively as per the court decision later in the day.
This was the second hearing in the retrial of Altans case, overseen by the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which had sentenced six defendants in the case to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” in February 2018, at the end of the original trial.
The retrial followed on the heels of a Supreme Court of Appeals judgment in July that overturned the aggravated life imprisonment sentences and ruled that Ahmet Altan and Ilıcak should instead be charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” Mehmet Altan should be acquitted, and their three co-defendants should be charged with “membership in a terrorist group.” The indictment claimed that all seven defendants in the case had prior knowledge of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016, which the government says was masterminded by the Fethullah Gülen network.
P24 monitored Monday’s hearing, where Nazlı Ilıcak and Mehmet Altan as well as defense lawyers were present in the courtroom. Ahmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül addressed the court via the judicial video conferencing system SEGBİS from the Silivri Prison, where they have been in detention on remand for over three years as part of this case. In addition to P24, representatives from the Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRCEW) and rights groups Article 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Amnesty International were among those monitoring the hearing.
At the beginning of the hearing, the prosecutor reiterated his final opinion which he submitted to the court last week. In his final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to acquit journalist and Professor of Economics Mehmet Altan but convict his brother, Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, former Zaman staffers Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek, and former Police Academy lecturer and political commentator Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül of terrorism-related charges. The prosecutor requested the continuation of the detention of all five jailed defendants and sought sentences above the minimum prison term prescribed by the law for all five.
Lawyer representing Parliament files motion seeking life imprisonment
Ahead of Monday’s hearing, the lawyer representing the Parliament, which is a co-plaintiff in the case, filed a motion seeking the reversal of the court’s decision to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the “coup” convictions. The motion requested that the court insist on its verdict in the original trial and sentence all six defendants, including Mehmet Altan, to aggravated life imprisonment.
Ilıcak: The principle of equal treatment is being violated
The court heard Ilıcak’s defense statement first. Asserting that the prosecutor’s final opinion made the same allegations as the ones in the original trial, Ilıcak explained that she wrote columns for Bugün newspaper, not “Özgür Bugün,” which never existed.
She said the accusation “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” was specifically formulated to be leveled against journalists. Ilıcak reminded the court that the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the convictions in their case was “not a verdict that convicted me of knowingly aiding a terrorist group, but a ruling that told the court to review the case from this vantage point.”
Adding that some of the allegations against her were similar to those against her co-defendant Mehmet Altan, Ilıcak said: “The prosecutor is seeking Mehmet Altan’s acquittal but is asking the court to punish me over the same TV program. This amounts to a violation of the principle of equal treatment.”
The presiding judge then interrupted Ilıcak, asking her to deliver her statement more rapidly.
Continuing with her statement afterwards, Ilıcak defended her social media posts that are held as evidence against her. She said that when taken into consideration as a whole, her Twitter posts proved that she was against the coup. The presiding judge then interrupted Ilıcak for a second time, asking her to wrap up her statement.
As she concluded her statement, Ilıcak asserted that she “did not knowingly and willingly aid a terrorist organization” and asked to be acquitted and released.
Özşengül: Allegations amount to slander
Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül addressed the court next. Asserting in his statement that there was not substantial evidence against the defendants in the case file, Özşengül said the articles he wrote did not include any remarks that supported, praised or defended the Gülen network. He said his columns were an exercising of the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the Constitution.
Asserting that the court convicted him at the end of the original trial based on the indictment against him, as if he never made a defense statement, Özşengül said: “A conviction requires clear and convincing proof of criminal activity. The allegations against me in the case file that do not even constitute reasonable doubt amount to slander.
“The prosecutor claims in his final opinion that we ‘operated under the disguise of journalism.’ I spent 34 years with the Police Academy. I never claimed to be a journalist. I am a lecturer,” he added.
Rejecting the accusations against him, Özşengül requested to be acquitted.
Yazıcı and Şimşek: Lawful employment held as evidence against us
In the afternoon session, the court first heard Zaman’s former design chief Fevzi Yazıcı’s defense statement. Yazıcı said he only saw his lawyer once after the prosecutor submitted his final opinion and asked the court to grant him additional time for his defense statement. The presiding judge rejected Yazıcı’s request, saying that none of the defendants was granted additional time. Asserting that the “membership in a terrorist group” charge in the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling was based on his lawful employment at Zaman, Yazıcı said this was not a crime and asked to be acquitted.
Şimşek, the former brand manager of Zaman, also told the court at the beginning of his statement that he did not know before the hearing that this was going to be his final defense statement. “I was going to ask for additional time to prepare my final statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion, which I could only see on Friday,” Şimşek said. Asserting that his employment with Zaman was being held as evidence against him, Şimşek rejected the accusations and asked to be acquitted and released.
Ahmet Altan: The prosecutor is incriminating himself in his final opinion
Ahmet Altan addressed the court next. Saying that the prosecutor’s final opinion was a three-page long document full of contradictions and lies, Altan said the prosecutor was actually incriminating himself with this document.
“The prosecutor claims in his final opinion that I ‘said the coup of 15 July would take place.’ This is a lie. I never made such a remark and there is no evidence supporting this allegation,” Altan said.
He continued: “But the sentence that follows in the final opinion constitutes the basis of the prosecutor’s confession to his crime. The prosecutor says: ‘It is not possible to have prior knowledge of the coup attempt without acting in unison with the terrorist group.’ So according to the prosecutor, in order to have prior knowledge of the coup, this person must be acting in unison with the putschists. But then the prosecutor mentions ‘articles written during a period when the likelihood of a coup was deemed relatively high.’ So he is saying that there was a strong likelihood of a coup ahead of 15 July 2016. And the prosecutor was aware of this likelihood. But since the prosecutor argued that it was ‘not possible to have prior knowledge of the coup attempt without acting in unison with terrorists,’ then I would like to ask the prosecutor which putschists did he act in unison to find out about the likelihood of a coup.
“I stand behind everything that I have said and written up until now. If your goal is to keep me in prison, you can do that for as long as you want. I am not afraid of prison. I’d rather spend the rest of my life in prison than fear such a government. As long as this government keeps me in prison on these justifications, the ones who keep me in prison also become smaller. And no one has the power to change this equation.
“The law has such magnificent power and it is because it strengthens and enlarges all who hold on to it. I do not move away from the law and honesty, and I suggest everyone else to do the same,” Ahmet Altan concluded his statement.
Mehmet Altan: Prosecutor’s final opinion reiterates nullified allegations
Mehmet Altan, who was released from pre-trial detention in June 2018 based on the Constitutional Court’s judgment concerning his individual application, was the last defendant to address the court.
Pointing out that the prosecutor’s final opinion reiterated the allegations in the initial indictment, Altan said those allegations were nullified as a result of judgments by the Constitutional Court, the European Court of Human Rights and the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
“Because the indictment repeated in the prosecutor’s final opinion is not a lawful indictment, my constitutional rights were found to be violated and the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled for my acquittal,” Altan said.
“Throughout this trial, I have witnessed the existence of a will that seeks to disregard the constitutional order, trying to achieve this goal within the state. The primary target of this mob has always been the Constitution. Very dangerously they attempted to disregard the Constitution.
“I am still suffering from my unlawful detention as part of this case even though I was paid compensation [which was ordered by the Constitutional Court]. This has to be remedied according to both the Constitution and Supreme Court of Appeals case-law,” Altan said as he concluded his statement, requesting to be acquitted as per the Supreme Court ruling.
After Mehmet Altan completed his statement, the court went on to hear defense lawyers.
Ahmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu and Nazlı Ilıcak’s lawyer Kemal Ertuğ Derin told the court that their clients should be acquitted based on the amendments introduced in the Law on the Fight against Terrorism (TMK) with last month’s Judicial Reform Package. All defense lawyers requested the court to acquit their clients.
Following the completion of defense lawyers’ closing arguments, the panel said they would take a 20-minute recess for deliberation. The bailiff then announced that the recess was “open-ended” and that the panel would not be announcing their verdict until after 7 p.m.
The panel returned to the courtroom at 7:45 p.m. Announcing their verdict, the court acquitted Mehmet Altan and lifted all judicial control measures imposed on him. The court sentenced Ahmet Altan to 10 years and 6 months in prison and Ilıcak to 8 years and 9 months on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and ruled to release both, taking into account the time they spent in pretrial detention. The court imposed an international travel ban on both Altan and Ilıcak.
Their co-defendants Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek were each sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in prison and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül was given a prison sentence of 12 years on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.” The court ruled to keep all three behind bars.
Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak’s requests for release rejected once again ahead of retrial
The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has once again ruled for the continuation of the detention of jailed journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who have both been behind bars for over three years as part of the “coup” case against them and their four co-defendants, who also include Ahmet Altan’s brother, Professor of Economics and columnist Mehmet Altan. The trial court, which will be overseeing the retrial of Altans’ case in October after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions, stated the Constitutional Court’s rulings concerning Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak as the grounds for its rejection of requests for their release pending trial. The Constitutional Court’s Plenary had rejected the individual applications filed on behalf of Altan and Ilıcak on 3 May 2019.
In the meantime, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu filed a complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on 9 September 2019, requesting the council to take legal action against the judges of the trial court. Çalıkuşu requested that the council remove Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court’s presiding judge Kemal Selçuk Yalman, judges Recep Kurt and Mehmet Akif Ayaz and prosecutor Eray Akkavak, “who have all abused their positions and have lost their impartiality.” Çalıkuşu requested a new panel to be assigned with the retrial. Çalıkuşu said that she will be continuing to file complaints to the HSK every day until legal action is taken against the judges in question.
Trial court abides by Supreme Court ruling, keeps defendants in jail
Ahmet Altan and his five co-defendants now face trial on lesser, terrorism-related charges, instead of “attempting coup”
ÖZGÜN ÖZÇER, İstanbul
The retrial of the “coup” case against six defendants including jailed journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and journalist Mehmet Altan and jailed journalist Nazlı Ilıcak commenced 8 October 2019 in Istanbul. This was the first hearing held after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life sentences against the six defendants in the case.
Journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak and three other co-defendants –former marketing director of the shuttered newspaper Zaman, Yakup Şimşek, former Zaman art director Fevzi Yazıcı and the Police Academy lecturer and commentator Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — have been in prison for over three years. Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics and journalist, was released by an appellate court in June 2018 on the basis of a Constitutional Court judgment that said his pre-trial detention amounted to violation of his rights.
All six defendants were given aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” by the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court in February 2018. The appellate court upheld the sentences but the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned them, saying Ahmet Altan and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its members” while Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül should have been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.” The charges carry up to 15 years in jail. For Mehmet Altan, the Supreme Court said he should be acquitted.
Following the Supreme Court of Appeals decision, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court that handed the aggravated life sentences had to establish first whether to comply with the decision. At Tuesday’s hearing, the court panel heard statements from the prosecutor and the defendants and defense lawyers in response to the Supreme Court decision. The prosecutor requested the court to comply with the decision but also to keep all the imprisoned defendants behind bars pending trial.
At the end of the hearing, the court decided to abide by the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling and to keep the five imprisoned defendants in pre-trial detention. The court also ruled to lift the international travel ban on Mehmet Altan. The trial adjourned until 4 November.
Observers from P24, Article 19, Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) were present to monitor the trial. Many were unable to enter as the session was again held at a small courtroom.
Defendant Şimşek expelled from courtroom
Ilıcak was brought to the courtroom from the Bakırköy Women’s Prison where she remains jailed, while Şimşek and Özşengül were brought from the Silivri Prison outside Istanbul. Ahmet Altan and Yazıcı attended the trial via the judicial videoconference system from the Silivri Prison. Mehmet Altan, who was released in June 2018, was also present at the hearing.
The first defendant to be heard at the hearing was Ilıcak, who also asked the court to comply with the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeals. In a brief statement, Ilıcak suggested the court to also take into consideration the government’s plan of enforcing a judicial reform package. “I have been in detention for more than three years. I’m 75 years old. I demand my release on account of the new charge I face,” Ilıcak said.
Speaking after Ilıcak, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül said his health issues required being able to regularly visit hospital and asked for his release.
Third defendant to take the floor, Yakup Şimşek, rejected the accusations levelled against him. The court did not pay any attention to their defense statements in the first trial and kept him in detention based on unfounded allegations for 37 months, Şimşek said.
Presiding judge Kemal Selçuk Yalçın warned Şimşek over his criticism of the court and asked him to keep his statements limited to the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling. “I leave it to God,” Şimşek replied, after which Yalçın expelled him from the courtroom.
Ahmet Altan: Witnessing the judiciary’s suicide
Following Şimşek’s expulsion, it was jailed journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan’s turn to present his statement to the court. Altan, who chose to make his statements from Silivri Prison via the judicial videoconference system, also strongly criticized the trial court’s attitude during the initial trial. “Since the very beginning of this trial you have been trying to do the impossible, you have been trying to prosecute thought,” Altan said. “It is not possible to achieve this. Because the boundlessness of thought cannot fit into the confines of the judiciary.”
Altan said: “Law draws the limits of the judiciary. When the judiciary goes outside of these limits in order to punish ideas, it clashes with law. We find ourselves in front of a lawless judiciary.
A judiciary in conflict with law — its very purpose of existence — commits suicide by cutting its own life-blood. For the past three years I have been facing a judiciary that is drenched in blood, committing suicide.”
Altan said the court used “absurd justifications that have nothing to do with law” such as “subliminal messages,” “immaterial force,” “abstract threat”, “penning articles at a time when the coup was probable.”
“These, are not judicial justifications, this is the suicide letter of a judiciary,” he said.
The presiding judge Yalçın warned Altan after he said “If this court had sincerely listened to our defense statements, it would not have been dragged into making such a grave mistake like failing to comply with the judgment of the Constitutional Court. It would not have clashed with its purpose of existence.” The judge told him to keep his comments limited to the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling. “We have been waiting with patience for three years,” Altan answered. “I’m expecting you to show some patience.”
When Yalçın warned him a second time, Altan closed his statements telling the court “My advice to you today is for you to comply with the law, to not go outside the boundaries of law and to not try to prosecute thought. It’s up to you to follow this advice or not.”
Mehmet Altan: Would you like to stand trial as we did?
Following Ahmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı was asked to give his statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Sitting next to Altan at the Silivri Prison, Yazıcı made a brief statement through the judiciary’s videoconference system. Yazıcı rejected the accusations brought against him, demanding his release and acquittal.
The only defendant who was released in the case, Mehmet Altan, was last to be heard. Altan said after the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court of Appeals had also ruled that accusations against him were unfounded, adding that the Supreme Court of Appeals had also made it clear that judgments of the Constitutional Court and the European Court were binding.
Altan said the trial court did not follow the key Supreme Court of Appeals case-law while sentencing him and his co-defendants to aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
“How can the panel of a first instance court, particularly of a high criminal court, can misinterpret the case-law of the Supreme Court of Appeals? Did they make such a mistake because their knowledge about the law is inadequate or they are tasked to bear enmity against innocent people whom they don’t know personally?”
“Both options are terrifying, but all said and done they did treat me as an enemy,” Altan continued. “Now I’m asking you: Whilst my innocence was clear from the outset, was this enmity worth it? What did you gain?”
After the chief judge warned him to keep his statement shorter, Mehmet Altan referred to his previous defense statements and asked the court “Would you like to stand trial as we did? Ask your conscience then decide.”
Judge to lawyer: Don’t read out our names
After defendants, the court gave the floor to their lawyers. The presiding judge reacted angrily when Büşra Şimşek, lawyer and also the daughter of imprisoned defendant Yakup Şimşek referred to a mistake in a minutes of hearing proceedings as she was arguing that the panel of judges should withdraw from the case. “You’re accusing the court of lying,” Yalçın told lawyer Şimşek threating with filing a complaint against her to the Bar’s Association and expelling her from the courtroom.
Ahmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu rejected the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision to put the novelist on trial for “aiding a terrorist organization.” “Did Ahmet Altan know that the organization in question was a terrorist organization? Was he aware that they were preparing to stage a coup?” she asked. As Çalıkuşu was reminding to court that it refused to implement a Constitutional Court ruling regarding Mehmet Altan and mentioned the three judges composing the panel and the prosecutor by their name, head judge Yalçın interrupted again her statement. Yalçın told her she should not read their names out loud during the proceedings.
The court announced its interim decision following a break of about an hour. It ruled to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision “that complies with the procedures and the law,” but rejected the demands for release of the five defendants who have been in detention for three years and a month. The court lifted Mehmet Altan’s travel ban but did not acquit him straight away.
The court panel also rejected requests to recuse itself from the case and the demands to expand the investigation, setting 4 November 2019 as the date of the next hearing. Because the next court hearing is less than a month away, the regular monthly review of detention for the imprisoned defendants will not be held before that hearing.
The court also decided to order a medical report assessing health risks for continued detention of Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül.
Altans’ lawyer objects to court’s rulings ahead of retrial
Lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu: Trial court proves once again that it’s no longer impartial
CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL
Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu, the lawyer representing Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, has filed two new petitions with the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul and the next court of first instance this week, objecting to last week’s interim rulings by the 26th High Criminal Court, which ordered the continuation of Ahmet Altan’s detention on remand and ruled for Mehmet Altan to be “forcibly brought” to the retrial in October.
After the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life imprisonment sentences against six defendants including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak in the “coup” case, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled for the five imprisoned defendants to remain in detention on remand and for Mehmet Altan, who was released last summer by a decision of the appellate court, based on the Constitutional Court’s ruling, to be “forcibly brought” to the first hearing in the retrial, which is set for 8 October 2019.
Çalıkuşu said the ruling was “in violation of the right to a fair trial” and that this way, the court “has proven once again that it has lost its impartiality.”
In her objection filed with the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, Çalıkuşu recalled the Supreme Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that called for Mehmet Altan’s acquittal.
Çalıkuşu asserted in her petition that in 2018, the Constitutional Court of Turkey and the European Court of Human Rights have both rendered judgments in favor of Altan, ruling that his pre-trial detention was unlawful.
Çalıkuşu also added that according to Article 146 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK), only in cases where “there are sufficient grounds to issue an arrest warrant or an apprehension order” against the accused can the judge order them to be forcibly brought before the court. Çalıkuşu emphasized that in the case of Mehmet Altan there were no reasons to justify this decision.
Additionally referring to articles 145 and 146 of CMK, Çalıkuşu pointed out that even in the event there is such a request, Mehmet Altan cannot be brought to court by force before being summoned by a letter first.
According to CMK 145 and 146, a suspect or accused may forcibly be brought before court if there are sufficient grounds to issue an arrest warrant or an apprehension order, or if they fail to appear before the court after being summoned by a summons letter.
Çalıkuşu also filed a complaint against the three-judge court panel with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), saying the council should take immediate legal action against the trial court’s arbitrary rulings and its judges. The HSK should also transfer the case file to another court, she said.
The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has to deliberate on Çalıkuşu’s objection in three days.
Çalıkuşu filed her objection to the trial court’s interim decision ordering the continuation of Ahmet Altan’s detention on remand with the next court of first instance, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Noting that Altan has been in pre-trial detention for 35 months despite the maximum jail time for the alleged offense being 30 months, Çalıkuşu requested the court to release Ahmet Altan.
Çalıkuşu wrote: “In view of the scope of the case file, the current stage the trial is in, and the 35 months that have already been spent in pre-trial detention, a judge who is guided by conscience cannot rule for the continuation of the defendant’s pre-trial detention. A court who can make such a decision while knowing that the maximum jail time for the offense is 30 months clearly exhibits bias in determining the appropriate sentence. And by preferring to punish before conviction, this court has gone against the Penal Code. The only truth that comes out of this is that the goal is to keep Ahmet Altan locked up behind bars.”
Court on duty revokes decision to “forcibly bring” Mehmet Altan to hearing
In an interim decision issued on 24 July 2019, the panel on duty of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court revoked an earlier decision of the same court to forcibly bring journalist and academic Mehmet Altan to the first hearing in his re-trial scheduled for 8 October 2019.
Mehmet Altan and five others, including his brother Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, were each sentenced in February 2018 to aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the government.” However, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the sentence, saying Mehmet Altan must have been acquitted. In its decision dated 5 July 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals also ruled that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization knowingly and willingly without belonging to its hierarchical structure” instead.
In its decision for a re-trial that was issued on 19 July, the Istanbul 26thHigh Criminal Court ruled for Mehmet Altan, who was released in 2018 after the Constitutional Court found his pre-trial detention to be a violation of his rights, to be forcibly brought to the first hearing of the re-trial and for defendants Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek to remain imprisoned.
Altans’ lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu objected to the court’s decision saying there was no legal ground justifying an order to forcibly bring Mehmet Altan to the court. She also filed a formal complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) against the court panel of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, saying they “failed to comply with principles of fair trial” and that the latest decision “proved once again that the court has lost its impartiality.”
Both the Constitutional Court in January 2018 and the European Court of Human Rights in March 2018 established that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated due to his pre-trial detention. The 26th High Criminal Court, however, had refused to release Altan despite the Constitutional Court’s decision. Altan was finally released in June 2018 by the decision of an appellate court. The appellate court said its decision to release Mehmet Altan was in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
In her objection filed with the court, Çalıkuşu referred to the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling that called for Mehmet Altan’s acquittal. Çalıkuşu also added that according to Article 146 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK), only in cases where “there are sufficient grounds to issue an arrest warrant or an apprehension order” against the accused can the judge order them to be forcibly brought before the court. Çalıkuşu emphasized that in the case of Mehmet Altan there were no reasons to justify this decision.
Upon examining Çalıkuşu’s objection filed on 22 July, the panel on duty of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court emphasized that the 16thCriminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Mehmet Altan should have been acquitted of all charges. The judges unanimously voted in agreement with Çalıkuşu’s objection, revoking the decision to forcibly bring Altan.
Commenting on the decision, lawyer Çalıkuşu said “the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure rulings have been met, the unlawful decision has been reversed.” She added, however, that she was astonished to see that the original panel of the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which had delivered aggravated life sentences in a file where three higher courts did not find elements of a crime and is now intentionally contradicting the rulings of the Constitutional Court, will be overseeing the trial once again on 8 October and how the Council of Judges and Prosecutors remains silent.
Retrial of Altans case to begin in October
The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which issued its decision for retrial on 18 July, rejected the requests for Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and their three co-defendants to be released pending trial. All five have been in pre-trial detention for almost three years as part of the case.
The trial court rejected the requests for release on the grounds of “the nature and specifics of the leveled accusation; the evidence at hand; the specifics of judgments rendered by relevant authorities during the appeal process as well as by the Constitutional Court during the individual application phase and the facts established in the said judgments; and substantial evidence that constitute strong suspicion of guilt.” The panel also cited “flight risk” and “the insufficiency of judicial control measures that would be imposed on the defendants” among the grounds for rejecting the requests for release pending trial.
The retrial comes on the heels of a judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeals earlier this month, which overturned the trial court’s 2018 verdict and ordered a retrial. The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had ruled that Mehmet Altan, who was released from pre-trial detention in June 2018 by a decision of the appellate court based on a Constitutional Court judgment, should be acquitted, while Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should face the lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The 16th Criminal Chamber had also ruled that Altans’ co-defendants Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül should be charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
In February 2018, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, columnist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, Zaman daily’s former chief page designer Fevzi Yazıcı, the newspaper’s marketing director Yakup Şimşek and former Police Academy lecturer and commentator Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” under Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The indictment claimed that the defendants “had prior knowledge of the coup attempt of July 2016,” which the government claims to have been carried out by the members of the religious movement led by Fethullah Gülen.
On 27 June 2018, the appellate court that took up the case ruled that Mehmet Altan should be released on the basis of the Constitutional Court judgment.
However, in October 2018, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, the appellate court overseeing the case, rejected the appeals and ruled for the continuation of detention of all imprisoned defendants in the case.
Earlier this year, on 3 May, the Constitutional Court rejected the individual applications filed on behalf of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. In its reasoned judgments issued on 26 June, the Constitutional Court said “the assessments made by the investigation authorities and the decisions rendered by the courts that ruled for [the journalists’] detention could not be deemed as ‘arbitrary and baseless’.” Source
Appeals court overturns “coup” convictions in Altans case
The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a decision of a criminal court that sentenced journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak to aggravated life imprisonment on charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” according to a news report published by the state news agency Anadolu late on Friday.
Top court issues judgments in Ahmet Altan case, 13 others
The Constitutional Court’s Plenary has issued the judgments concerning its 3 May 2019 decisions, in which it rejected the individual applications filed on behalf of jailed journalists Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and former Cumhuriyet staff members including Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şık.
All nine applications, filed in 2016 and 2017, asserted that the applicants’ arrests violated their rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The top court’s judgments were published on 26 June 2019 on the court’s official website. The judgments concerning the rejected applications said, in a nutshell, that “the assessments made by the investigation authorities and the decisions rendered by the courts that ruled for [the journalists’] arrests could not be deemed as ‘arbitrary and baseless’.”
In Ahmet Altan’s application, the President of the Constitutional Court Zühtü Arslan, Vice President Engin Yıldırım and three other justices disagreed with the majority opinion. All five judges were of the opinion that Altan’s arrest violated his rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In his four-page dissenting opinion, Constitutional Court President Zühtü Arslan wrote that the investigation authorities have “failed to demonstrate relevant and sufficient grounds proving that the contents of Altan’s columns and his commentary, held as evidence against him, constituted strong indication of guilt.”
“Based on several sentences excerpted from two columns by Altan that were included in his investigation file, the investigation authorities have alleged that Altan had prior knowledge of the 15 July 2016 coup attempt and laid the groundwork for a coup, however, the same authorities have failed to provide the factual grounds to prove this claim,” Arslan wrote.
Regarding the allegation in the investigation file that “Taraf newspaper, under Altan’s administration as editor-in-chief, published content in line with the objectives of the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization,” Arslan wrote that the investigation authorities have “also failed to factually demonstrate that the newspaper content that constituted the grounds for Altan’s arrest was published in line with the objectives of the terrorist organization and based on instructions from the said terrorist organization.”
Vice-President Engin Yıldırım also wrote in his dissenting opinion that among the grounds for Altan’s arrest, there was no evidence factually demonstrating a strong suspicion other than certain expressions and his harsh criticism in his columns and his commentary. Yıldırım wrote: “For certain expressions the applicant has used in some of his columns and his commentary to be deemed ‘strong indication of guilt’ does not amount to anything beyond a speculative assessment.”
Yıldırım wrote that Altan’s columns and commentary that constitute the basis for the accusations “neither laid the groundwork nor called for a coup, but were rather aimed as a warning about the potential chaos which the policies adopted and the discourse employed by certain political figures whom Altan had been harshly criticising could stir and at informing the public about their possible consequences. Yıldırım wrote: “Speaking of a probable coup and supporting a coup are not the same thing. Otherwise, anyone who speaks about the danger of a coup or other internal disturbances could later be accused of laying the groundwork for the coup in the event the coup they had warned of does indeed take place at some point.”
At the end of two days of deliberations on 2 and 3 May, the Constitutional Court’s Plenary had rejected the applications of Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, who is Altan’s co-defendant in the “coup” case, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık and six former Cumhuriyet Foundation executives, including Önder Çelik and Musa Kart. The judgments issued on 26 June revealed that the Plenary had ruled that Ahmet Şık’s application was “inadmissible.”
The top court had found rights violations in the files of journalists Kadri Gürsel, Murat Aksoy and Ali Bulaç.
The Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures (OHAL Commission) has rejected Mehmet Altan’s application for reinstatement. Altan was dismissed from his post as a professor of economics with the Istanbul University with an emergency decree after a prosecutor pressed charges against him and his brother.
The reasoning cited in OHAL Commission’s decision, dated 6 December 2018, was that legal proceedings against Altan were still ongoing, as well as an administrative report about Altan. Altan was notified of the decision on 8 January -- more than one month after the commission’s decision.
Upon receiving the notification, Altan and his lawyer petitioned against the president and the members of the commission on the grounds that the decision on his application was rendered without waiting for the completion of the legal proceedings against him.
The petition, filed by Altan’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu, requested that the president and the members of the OHAL Commission violated the Turkish Constitution and that they should be made to stand trial for misconduct.
Prosecutor says “coup” charge should be dropped in Altans case
Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals says Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist group without being its member”
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has requested the reversal of the appellate court’s verdict in the case against jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and longtime newspaper columnist Mehmet Altan, veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, and their three co-defendants.
In February 2018, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had sentenced the Altans, Ilıcak and three of their co-defendants to aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as per Article 309 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). The indictment claimed that the defendants in the case “had prior knowledge of the coup attempt of July 2016,” which the government claims to have been carried out by the religious movement led by Fethullah Gülen.
In October, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, the appellate court overseeing the case, upheld the trial court’s verdict. The defense lawyers then appealed the appellate court’s decision before the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals said in their judicial opinion concerning the appeal that the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” instead of the much serious charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
The judicial opinion asserted that “force and violence” were the essential elements of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as described in TCK 309, adding that the concepts of “immaterial force” or “threat” were unacceptable in proving this charge in respect of the principle of legality.
Adding that the alleged acts committed by the defendants did not amount to “physical force and violence,” the judicial opinion went on to say that the verdict was based on “a broad assumption” and lacked specifics as to “when the alleged offense began to be committed; which offense the defendants participated in; or in what way they used force and violence.”
The judicial opinion said the court’s presumption that the defendants had committed the alleged offense “jointly and directly” was “erroneous and lacking legal and sufficient grounds.”
The Office of the General Prosecutor submitted their judicial opinion to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 8 January.
The judicial opinion (in Turkish) by the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals can be seen here.
In the event the Chamber rules in line with the Office of the General Prosecutor’s judicial opinion, the case file against the Altan brothers and Ilıcak will return to the trial court for retrial, this time on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group.”
The Office of the General Prosecutor also said in their judicial opinion that the Altans’ three co-defendants — Fevzi Yazıcı, the chief page designer of the shuttered daily Zaman, Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper’s marketing director, and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — should have been charged with “membership in a terrorist group.”
The judicial opinion seeks that the Supreme Court of Appeals uphold the verdict concerning Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the seventh defendant in the case, who was acquitted of the charges by the trial court.
In the event the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upholds the appellate court verdict, the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals can still object to the verdict, in which case the file will be reviewed by the Assembly of Criminal Law Chambers.
Of the six defendants, Mehmet Altan was released in June by a decision of the appellate court when the court first took up the case. The other defendants remain imprisoned, for well over two years now. Source
Appellate court issues reasoned judgment in Altans case
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice has written its reasoned judgment concerning its rejection of the appeals against the aggravated life sentences given to Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and their three co-defendants on “coup” charges.
Turkish court approves aggravated life sentences for 6 Turkish journalists
An appeals court in İstanbul on Tuesday upheld aggravated life sentences handed down to six jailed journalists including prominent figures Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.
The journalists were given the sentences by the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in February after their conviction of attempting to destroy the constitutional order.
The appeals hearing of Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Ilıcak as well as 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, was held at the 2nd chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Law, which serves as an appeals court. Ahmet Altan’s brother, Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, was also given an aggravated life sentence, but was released pending appeal in June based on a decision of the Constitutional Court, which said Altan’s rights were violated during the trial. Mehmet Altan had been in pre-trial detention since September 2016.
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.
The appeals process of the journalists will now continue at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals. During this process, Mehmet Altan will not be jailed.
Mehmet Altan, Ilıcak, Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül attended the hearing at the İstanbul Regional Court of Law on Tuesday while Ahmet Altan remained in Silivri Prison and attended the hearing via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS).
Ilıcak said in court on Tuesday that her defense is being ignored although she has refuted all the accusations directed against her.
The journalist said the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Mehmet Altan sets a precedent for her case and that the top court, which will take up her case this month, will probably rule for a rights violation in her case as well.
“I did not commit a crime. I am asking for the end of my victimization by an acquittal or at least by my release based on the top court’s ruling on Mehmet Altan,” Ilıcak told the court.
Ilıcak used to work for the Bugün daily, the Özgür Düşünce daily and Can Erzincan TV, which were all closed down by the Turkish government following the coup attempt due to their links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding the failed coup. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.
Yazıcı’s lawyer, Mesut Yazıcı, said his client had nothing to do with a Zaman daily TV commercial that is associated with the coup attempt, adding that the daily’s then-editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı had the only say over the paper’s TV commercials from their preparation for the broadcasting stage.
It is claimed in the indictment that the Zaman TV commercial, aired nine months, 10 days prior to the failed coup on July 15, 2016, was a signal for the military coup attempt by the Gülen movement. Prosecutor Murat Çağlak claimed that through TV ads in which a baby smiles after scenes of chaos the Gülen movement sent messages to its members.
Zaman was also closed down by the government following the coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement.
The lawyer asked for the acquittal and release of his client.
In his defense, Mehmet Altan said he was given the jail sentence without any concrete evidence of a crime against him.
The journalist read the Constitutional Court’s verdict on him, which ruled that his right to freedom and safety has been violated.
“With this ruling, the Constitutional Court protects me against those violating the Constitution. In line with this ruling, your court releases me and the state pays me compensation,” said Altan, adding that if there is law in Turkey, the only decision to emerge from the court should be his acquittal.
Özşengül, who was the next to deliver his defense, said he and the other defendants in the trial are unfortunately being subjected to a criminal law that is seen in fascist governments.
“I am getting an aggravated life sentence without any concrete evidence being presented against me. … It is very surprising for me to be in this trial,” said Özşengül.
Şimşek said he has been jailed for 793 days without any concrete evidence of a crime against him.
“I am asking for my acquittal or at least my release. Being tried without arrest is the norm. I want to see my old parents,” he said.
Ahmet Altan, who was the last to make his defense during Tuesday’s hearing, accused the court of disregarding the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Mehmet Altan, saying that he and the other defendants are being tried by judges who refuse to comply with the Constitution.
“They want to punish me, but they can’t find anything in the law and judicial system to legitimize it. They can’t find it and will not do so. Because I am right. I don’t care about spending my life in a prison cell because I feel myself wandering in a comic book. Nothing seems serious or startling to me. When you base a punishment on a ‘subliminal message,’ ‘immaterial force,’ ‘abstract threat,’ then that punishment has no seriousness,” Ahmet Altan said, underlining the weakness of the evidence against him. Source
2 October 2018:
Turkish appeals court upholds life sentences for 6 in FETÖ media case
Turkish appeals court upheld on Tuesday aggravated life sentences for six defendants, including Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan and his brother Ahmet who were accused of serving as the media arm of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) that is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people across Turkey.
The remaining defendants sentenced for attempting to overthrow the constitution are Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül. The six were sentenced in February on charges of aiding FETÖ plotters and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.
They had appealed to the high court for their release, but Istanbul's 2nd Appeal Court upheld their sentence. All six are serving aggravated life sentences, which means they are not eligible for parole and cannot be included in future amnesty decisions. Read the full article
Appeal court could uphold life sentences for three well-known journalists
After a preliminary hearing in June, an Istanbul regional court will today begin examining the substance of the appeals of three well-known journalists, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. If it confirms their sentences, they will end their days in prison, subjected to a drastic form of solitary confinement, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns.
At the end of the original trial in February, the three journalists were sentenced to “aggravated life imprisonment,” the Turkish judicial system’s harshest punishment, which precludes any possibility of a pardon and prohibits temporary releases. They are aged 68, 65 and 74 respectively.
Under Turkey’s sentence implementation law, persons convicted of “aggravated life imprisonment” are confined to an individual cell nearly all day, are allowed just a single one-hour visit by a close relative and a ten-minute phone call every two weeks, and are not let out of prison for any reason other than hospitalization. When an ailment cannot be treated in the prison infirmary, they are taken to an isolated room in a state hospital.
Arrested in September 2016, the Altan brothers and Ilıcak were convicted 18 months later of “trying to overthrow the constitutional order” in connection with their journalistic activities, in particular, their criticism of the authorities during a TV programme broadcast the day before the July 2016 coup attempt.
Their trial was marked by many procedural violations and a refusal to comply with a binding Constitutional Court ruling that Mehmet Altan’s prolonged detention constituted an unwarranted violation of his rights. It was only after resisting the Constitutional Court’s order for six months that the justice system finally released Mehmet Altan, under judicial control, in June. He will return to prison if his sentence is upheld on appeal.
“Subjecting the Altan brothers and Nazlı Ilıcak to the harshest prison conditions would be an act of political revenge in its purest form,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It is high time to end this persecution, which dishonours Turkey. The appeal court must take account of the rulings issued by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in this case. The conviction of these three journalists must be overturned.” Source
An Istanbul court of appeals has ordered the release of journalist and academic Mehmet Altan despite him previously having been given a life sentence, Turkish state news agency Anadolu said .
His release is conditional on his not leaving the country and checking in with police once a week.
Altan was among six journalists including his brother Ahmet Altan and columnist Nazlı Ilıcak given life sentences in February on charges of being part of the media arm of the July 2016 failed coup attempt.
The decision was widely criticised, including by the United States, which characterised the penalties as “criminalising journalism”.
Altan, along with fellow journalist Şahin Alpay, had previously twice won rulings in favour of their release from Turkey’s Constitutional Court, and twice these rulings were overturned by a lower court in violation of the usual judicial hierarchy.
A Turkish court gave life sentences to six people, including former newspaper editor Ahmet Altan, his brother, columnist and economist Mehmet Altan, and well-known journalist, Nazli Ilıcak, after convicting them of being the media wing of an Islamist sect the government says carried out the July 2016 failed coup attempt, secularist newspaper Sözcü said .
The three – together with Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül – were all accused of having had foreknowledge of the coup attempt.
“The Supreme Court and Constitutional Court decisions show that I am innocent,” Ilıcak said in her closing statement. “I ask for you to give your decision in the context of those precedents and I request my acquittal.”
“I have been tried hundreds of times,” Ahmet Altan said. “I have been tried under military rule, in the Feb. 28 (1997) trials and by the freaks called the State Security Courts. This is the first time I have faced a court that is carrying out a constitutional crime. As far as I am aware, there is no equivalent in either Ottoman or republican history.”
11 January 2018:
Mehmet Altan, Şahin Alpay and Turhan Günay made individual applications to the court claiming violations of their rights to personal freedom and security, of press freedom and freedom of expression, and of the 18th clause of the European Convention on Human Rights, the newspaper said.
All three journalists were arrested on variations of charges relating to membership of the Gülen movement, the followers of an exile preacher the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.
Many of Turkey’s other media workers, especially those jailed on similar charges, will be paying close attention to the outcome and the legal logic of the decision.
Mehmet Altan, a columnist, professor of economics, and public figure, was detained by police on September 10, 2016, alongside his brother Ahmet Altan, a well-known novelist and journalist.
Istanbul's 10th Court of Penal Peace on September 22 arraigned Altan on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow the government. The charges stem from the allegation that Altan is a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" within Turkey - the Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization, or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it - that it says was behind a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.
According to the court's order to jail Altan pending trial, a copy of which was published by the news website T24, prosecutors alleged FETÖ tried to shape public opinion to support the coup in advance, and that the organization did so through news media it controlled. The state alleged that on July 14, the day before the attempted coup, Altan had "mentioned that there is an atmosphere suitable for a coup" on a TV show he had co-hosted on Can Erzincan TV together with another journalist, Nazlı Ilıcak, who is under arrest on similar accusations. The government used emergency powers it claimed after the coup to close Can Erzincan TV by decree on July 27.
Prosecutors alleged Altan had advance knowledge of the coup attempt, citing his words on the TV program as: "Probably inside the Turkish state there is a structure watching, documenting all these developments more than the outside world. It is not certain when [this structure] will show its face."
The court rejected the defense's argument at the arraignment that Altan's statements constituted protected speech, since it did not consider them to have been made "for the public good."
Altan denied all charges.
In court, interrogators asked Altan who controlled the newspaper Özgür Düşünce, where he worked, whether he had met Gülen, and whether he had kissed his hand. Altan responded that he had met Gülen once for journalistic purposes, and denied having kissed the preacher's hand. The court documents published by T24 list only Altan's answers, not the questions or who was asking them.
Mehmet Altan is on trial alongside Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, a former columnist for Özgür Düşünce and a former TV host for the shuttered broadcaster Can Erzincan TV; Fevzi Yazıcı, the former layout editor for the shuttered newspaper Zaman; Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper's former advertising director; and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, a former police academy instructor and TV commentator, according to reports. The trial began on July 19, reports said.
The defendants are all charged with: “attempting to eliminate the Constitutional order,” “attempting to eliminate the government of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” “attempting to eliminate the parliament of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” and “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being a member,” according to the indictment.
All the defendants denied the charges.
Ahmet Altan described his indictment as "judicial pornography." Mehmet Altan denied that he sent "subliminal messages" on TV favoring the coup before the attempted takeover took place. The media monitoring group P24 published the brothers' full statements in their defense, translated into English.
The next hearing was scheduled for December 11, 2017.
In October 2017, the journalists’ lawyer, Tobias Garnett, told CPJ via email that the European Court of Human Rights had accepted an application for the court to review the Altan brothers’ case. The Turkish government was due to present its defense to the court by December 5, 2017, according to reports.
The journalist is detained in Silivri Prison, Istanbul.*
Ahmet Altan, former editor of the shuttered daily Taraf; his brother, Mehmet Altan, a former columnist for the shuttered daily Özgür Düşünce and an academic; Nazlı Ilıcak, a former columnist for Özgür Düşünce and a former TV host for the shuttered broadcaster Can Erzincan TV; Fevzi Yazıcı, the former layout editor for the shuttered newspaper Zaman; Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper's former advertising director; and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, a former police academy instructor and TV commentator: All defendants denied the charges against them.
Ahmet Altan described his indictment as "judicial pornography." Mehmet Altan denied that he sent "subliminal messages" on TV favoring the coup before the attempt happened.
18 March 2014:
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