Police in the coastal town of Bodrum detained Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak -- a former commentator for the pro-opposition daily newspaper Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV who is better known by her pen name, Nazlı Ilıcak -- on July 26, 2016, and transferred her to Istanbul for questioning as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to press reports. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.
Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV were among the more than 100 newspapers, broadcasters, news agencies, and magazines the Turkish government closed by decree on July 27, 2016, using emergency powers it assumed after the attempted coup, saying the media outlets were FETÖ/PDY mouthpieces.
Istanbul's Fifth Court of Penal Peace on July 30, 2016, arraigned Ilıcak and 16 other journalists, ordering them jailed pending trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," according to the media monitoring group P24. The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the 17 journalists were questioned by prosecutors on accusations of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," "founding or leading an armed terrorist organization," "knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization's hierarchical structure," and "committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member."
Ilıcak’s trial began in Istanbul on July 19, 2017. Her co-defendants are the brothers Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan; 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 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, which CPJ reviewed.
Evidence cited against Ilıcak in the indictment include a notebook, social media posts, a TV debate she hosted, during which the Altan brothers allegedly sent subliminal messages in favor of a military coup, her 2012 book Her Taşın Altında “the Cemaat” mı Var? (Is It “the [Gülen Community?]”), and newspaper columns she wrote in 1980, which the prosecutors said were supportive of a coup that year. The incitement also listed her communication with other alleged FETÖ members.
All the defendants denied the charges.
Ilıcak was being held at at Bakırköy Women's Prison in Istanbul, according to press reports.
On February 16, 2018, a court sentenced Ilıcak, alongside Mehmet Altan, AhmetAltan, Yazıcı, and Şimşek, to life in prison without parole for “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey's Constitution,” according to news reports.
On October 2, 2018, a local appeals court in Istanbul upheld the life sentences, according to reports. The journalists’ lawyers said they will appeal.
In a separate trial on September 6, 2018, in which Ilıcak is charged with "revealing information regarding state security that is supposed to be secret for espionage purposes," a prosecutor asked for a life sentence for Ilıcak, news reports said. Ilıcak, who attended the hearing via teleconference from prison, said she received the document in question--about a religious group in Turkey--via Twitter in 2014, and so the information was already public when she wrote about it.
The next hearing was scheduled to take place on January 22, 2019.
In a July 2018 poll of jailed journalists carried out by the P24 Independent Journalism Association, Ilıcak said that when she was first imprisoned there was a delay in her receiving medication used to treat a bone thinning condition, and vitamins for her metabolism, but that she now regularly receives her medication.*
Appellate court sends Altans case to Supreme Court of Appeals
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice referred the appeal against the convictions in the retrial of the Altans case to the Supreme Court of Appeals, citing a provision in Turkey’s Criminal Procedure Code (CMK). The appellate court cited Article 307/3 of the CMK as the grounds for its unanimous decision, dated 6 January 2020.
Following the retrial’s conclusion on 4 November 2019, lawyers representing Ahmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, as well as the intervening parties — the Presidency and the Parliament — appealed the verdict. The case file was sent to the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, on 31 December 2019 for review.
Without reviewing the file, the chamber ruled to refer the case to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, saying that all reviews concerning the trial court’s verdict following a retrial fell within the jurisdiction of the relevant chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals until the verdict became final.
A report about the ruling can be accessed here.
4 December 2019:
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.”
Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak Released
Shortly after the İstanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court ruled for their release in the retrial held in the wake of a Court of Cassation verdict of reversal, journalist and writer Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak were released from Silivri Prison and Bakırköy Women's Prison last night (November 5).
While Altan was welcomed by his several friends and relatives, Ilıcak was greeted in front of the prison by his relatives, including his son Mehmet Ali Ilıcak and his elder brother Ömer Çavuşoğlu.
Altan: You cannot be happy
As reported by Elif Akgül from T24 news website, Ahmet Altan stated the following in brief after being released from prison:
"You cannot go out that happily. There are fellows that you have left behind in prison, you cannot be happy. It is better to stay and see people off in these conditions. I saw people off, you become happy for them. These fellows are innocent and they stay inside."
'I don't let my years pass for nothing'
Altan also said, "I felt a bit sad when I first heard my verdict of release. The other fellows have not been released, I feel so sorry for them. There are thousands of innocent men inside. It is, of course, a bit sad."
Telling the reporters that he missed looking at the sky most, Altan also said, "My years have not gone to waste. I did not let my years pass for nothing. I wrote books. I do not lose my years that much."
Ilıcak: Enact the law on execution of senctences
Released from Bakırköy Women's Prison in İstanbul, journalist and writer Nazlı Ilıcak said, "May Allah give strength to those who are left behind bars. Please, do not let them be forgotten. Please, let this law on execution of sentences be enacted as soon as possible."
They were arrested in 2016
Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan were taken into custody on September 1, 2016 as part of the investigation launched into July 15 coup attempt.
While Mehmet Altan was arrested on September 22, 2016, Ahmet Altan was released. However, one day later, on September 23, Ahmet Altan was also arrested on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent it from performing its duty".
Nazlı Ilıcak was also arrested together with 16 journalists as part of an operation against Gülen Community on July 30, 2016.
While Mehmet Altan was released on June 27, 2018, Nazlı Ilıcak and Ahmet Altan have been behind bars since they were arrested. (EKN/SD)
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.
The prosecutor has submitted his final opinion in the retrial of Altans case, seeking convictions for all five jailed defendants — novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, former Zaman staffers Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek, and former Police Academy lecturer and political commentator Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — who have all been in detention on remand for over three years as part of the case.
Submitting his final opinion to the court via the online judicial network UYAP on 31 October 2019, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Altan and four of his co-defendants on terrorism charges and sought sentences above the minimum prison term prescribed by the law. The prosecutor asked the court to acquit Mehmet Altan, who was released from pre-trial detention in June 2018 based on a judgment by the Constitutional Court, which found that his detention violated his rights to liberty and security and freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The prosecutor also requested the continuation of the detention of all five jailed defendants.
The retrial, which comes after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life imprisonment sentences the trial court rendered in February 2018 on charge of “Attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” will resume on 4 November.
Ahmet and Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu issued a public statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion on 1 November. In her statement, Çalıkuşu said the prosecutor was once again seeking punishment for expression of opinions. The prosecutor’s “scandalous” opinion “nullifies the judicial reform,” which went into force last month, Çalıkuşu said.
A report about Çalıkuşu’s statement can be accessed here.
8 October 2019:
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.
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.
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.
3 May 2019:
Constitutional Court rejects applications of Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and 5 former Cumhuriyet journalists
Turkey’s Constitutional Court on 3 May 2019 rejected the individual application of jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, finding no rights violations in his file that had been pending before the court since November 2016. The court also rejected the application of Nazlı Ilıcak, Altan’s co-defendant in the “coup” case.
22 January 2019:
Seventy-four-year-old Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, who has been behind bars since a 2016 failed coup attempt and who has already received an aggravated life sentence on coup-related charges, received another sentence of five years, 10 months, this time for publishing confidential material, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.
Arising from a case launched against her based on an article she wrote about an allegedly al-Qaeda-affiliated group within the military called “Tahşiyeciler,” Ilıcak was accused of publishing a secret document from the records of the Turkish General Staff in the Bugün daily in January 2015.
10 January 2019:
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
An Istanbul court on December 26 found Nazlı Ilıcak guilty of "insulting the president" and sentenced her to 14 months in prison, the news website Diken reported. In a tweet commenting on politics on February 23, 2016, Ilıcak called Erdoğan a "murderer," the report said. Ilıcak, who worked for the now shuttered Özgür Düşünce and television channel Can Erzincan TV, has been in custody since July 2016 as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to CPJ research.
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.
Espionage trial against Nazlı Ilıcak adjourned until January
The latest hearing in a trial into imprisoned journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, in which she stands accused of “espionage” for a newspaper column she wrote in 2015, was held on 9 October in Istanbul.
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
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
22 September 2018:
Jailed journalist says deceived by Gülen movement, asks for release
Jailed journalist Nazlı Ilıcak on Friday said she was deceived the by the Gülen movement as she asked for her release in the case she is charged with espionage for publishing official documentation, pro-government NTV news site reported.
Prosecutors have demanded the 73-year-old veteran journalist be given a life sentence on charges of “disclosing confidential information crucial to state security for espionage purposes.” Ilıcak has already been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order on the grounds of what the court said were links to the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government blames for the 2016 coup attempt. Ilıcak, Turkey’s most senior female journalist, is one of the dozens of reporters jailed in Turkey as part of a widespread crackdown since the attempted putsch.
"I would like to submit the many tweets I posted on the night of July 15 . On that night I posted many tweets saying that a coup could not implemented in such a way and that it would end in a disaster for the country. I said that even if you don’t like President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, such attempts would damage the country. I presented all of these as documents to the court, but unfortunately none of them were taken into consideration. I wrote articles which opposed a coup two months before it took place,’’ a tearful Ilıcak said during her testimony.
Ilıcak noted she never worked for a media outlet affiliated with the Gülen movement and she saw the ‘’criminal side’’ of the movement following the July 2016 coup.
"Not that I see this as a crime. I have 42 years of experience as a journalist but I never worked at a newspaper affiliated with the movement,’’ NTV quoted Ilıcak as saying.
Ilıcak pointed out that she fought for the freedom of headscarves alongside the movement in 2013, when Turkey, under the leadership of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), lifted a decades-old ban on headscarves in the civil service as part of a package of reforms by the government.
Ilicak accompanied then fellow Virtue Party (FP) lawmaker Merve Kavakci in May of 1999 when Turkish parliament erupted in protest to Kavakci's arrival for the swearing in ceremony with a headscarf.
Erdoğan's leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) fell out dramatically with the Gülenists in 2013, following a decade-long alliance. when prosecutors accused members of Erdoğan’s inner circle of corruption. Source
Turkish prosecutors demand life for journalist Nazlı Ilıcak
Turkish prosecutors on Thursday demanded journalist Nazlı Ilıcak be given a life sentence on charges of espionage for publishing official documents, the nationalist newspaper Sözcü said.
Ilıcak, aged 73, has already been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order on the grounds of what the court said were links to the Gülen movement that the Turkish government blames for a failed 2016 coup. Ilıcak is one of the dozens of reporters jailed in Turkey as part of a widespread crackdown since the attempted putsch.
The latest indictment against Ilıcak charges her with “disclosing confidential information crucial to state security for espionage purposes” in a newspaper column published in January 2015 about a radical Islamist group based in Turkey.
Ilıcak, addressing the court from prison via video-conferencing, said she had received the secret documents via Twitter. "As soon as I obtained the papers, I exposed them in my newspaper column on 2 January 2015. I didn't know about the documents before," she said.
Ilıcak worked for a number of media outlets linked to the Gülen movement. U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, for long an ally of the Ankara government, encouraged graduates of his many schools and universities to take up influential jobs in the civil service, police, military, judiciary and media.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the Gülenists of trying to set up a parallel state within the state. Source
Jailed journalist Nazlı Ilıcak set for next hearing
Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak has spent over two years behind bars since her arrest on Jul. 30, 2016, weeks after Turkey was rocked by a failed coup attempt.
Her crime, according to her indictment, was involvement alongside dozens of other journalists in the coup attempt, which prosecutors said the journalists had abetted through their writings.
Already sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order," Ilıcak faces additional espionage charges, the next hearings for which will take place on Sep. 6.
The article below provides all the salient points on the trial of one of Turkey's many prominent journalists now condemned to a life behind bars.
Compiled by the Punto 24 Platform for Independent Journalism and first published on Expression Interrupted.
Nazlı Ilıcak, a well-known columnist, TV host and former parliamentarian aged 73, was arrested on 26 July 2016 as part of an operation targeting journalists alleged to have links with the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of maintaining a terrorist network (FETÖ/PDY) and staging the 15 July 2016 coup attempt.
Ilıcak, who wrote for the mainstream media for decades, was a commentator for Özgür Düşünce newspaper, run mostly by former journalists of Zaman who were fired from the daily after it was taken over by a court-appointed board of trustees in March 2016, and Can Erzincan TV before she was arrested. Both outlets were closed down by an emergency decree that was issued on 27 July 2016, along with more than 100 other media institutions.
Ilıcak and 16 other journalists were imprisoned pending trial on 30 July, reportedly on charges of “being members of a terrorist organization.” On 14 April 2017, Anadolu news agency reported that an indictment sent to the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in April 2017 seeks three aggravated life sentences for Ilıcak on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, Parliament, and the government” and an additional prison term of up to 15 years for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
The prosecutor accuses Ilıcak and 16 other people cited in the indictment, mostly journalists, of “participating” in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, maintaining that they knew the coup attempt beforehand and thus were in collaboration with the coup plotters.
(Full text of the indictment against Ilıcak and other defendants — in Turkish — can be accessed here .)
Ilıcak and six other people, five of whom are in pre-trial detention, appeared before judges of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court for the first hearing of the case on 19-23 June 2017.
Ilıcak rejected all accusations and requested her release, saying she had no intention to leave the country. The court, announcing its interim ruling at the end of the five-day hearing, decided to keep all six imprisoned defendants in pre-trial detention.
Ilıcak again rejected the accusations and said no evidence has been presented to support them at the second hearing , held on 19 September 2017.
On 13 November, at the end of the third hearing, the court again ruled to keep all defendants behind bars.
The fourth hearing in the trial was held on 11 December 2017 at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
The fifth and final hearing in the case was held on 12-16 February. The first day of the hearing took place on 12 February at the Çağlayan Courthouse in downtown Istanbul but the rest of the trial was moved to the courtroom inside the Silivri Prison complex.
Ilıcak presented her final defense statement to the court on the second day of the hearing on 13 February, when she rejected the accusations once again. The full text of her defense statement (in Turkish) can be found here .
On 16 February, Ilıcak and five of her co-defendants in the case were convicted of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment.
In January 2018, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a new indictment against Ilıcak, accusing the journalist of “disclosing confidential information crucial to state security for espionage purposes” as per Article 330/1 of the Turkish Penal Code for a newspaper column published on 2 January 2015, in the shuttered Bugün daily, and titled “Askerî İstihbarat ve Tahşiyeciler” (The Military Intelligence and Tahşiyeciler).
Accepting the indictment, the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara issued a decision of non-jurisdiction and sent the file to Istanbul on grounds that the Bugün newspaper was headquartered in Istanbul during the time of the alleged crime.
Ilıcak gave her statement before the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 9 April 2018, at the first hearing of that case, for which she faces life imprisonment.
At the second hearing held on 23 May, the prosecutor asked the court to accept a request from the Defense Ministry to join the case as a co-plaintiff. The prosecutor also requested expansion of the investigation to find out if Ilıcak talked or wrote about the content of the article in question on television programs, newspapers or social media. Ilıcak, who addressed the court through video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Bakırköy Prison, objected to the prosecutor’s request for expansion of the investigation, saying that whether an article was used by social media users or other media outlets was not up to the writer of that article. She and her lawyers said the case must be dropped given that the Press Law limits the period of time when a court case can be brought against an article published in the press to four months.
In its interim ruling, the court ruled to allow the Defense Ministry to join the case as a co-plaintiff and accepted the prosecutor’s request for expansion of the investigation. The next hearing in the case will be held on 6 September.
Ilıcak is currently imprisoned at Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul. Source
Court adjourns in trial of journalists accused of supporting coup
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.
Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak was ordered arrested on July 30, 2016 as part of a sweeping purge of journalists suspected of being followers of Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey’s government accuses of having established a “parallel state structure” and who it blames for the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Ilıcak, along with 16 fellow journalists, was reportedly jailed pending trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organisation", "founding or leading an armed terrorist organisation", "knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organisation without being involved in the organisation's hierarchical structure" and "committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organisation without being a member". **
26 June 2017:
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.
1. September 2016:
The Anatolia News Agency did not report the full list of those affected, but did list a few known journalists, including: Nazlı Ilıcak, Ergun Babahan, Aladdin Kaya, Mustafa Ünal, Şirin Kabakçı, Abdullah Aymaz, Celal Azmi Kalyoncu, and Ömer Şahin.
Today's move brought to 620 the number of journalists whose credentials have been revoked since the failed July 15 military coup, according to t he same report.
Few working journalists in Turkey have press credentials, or "yellow cards," as they are called in Turkey.
BYEGM fired 11 of its own staff on suspicion of affiliation with the Hizmet movement, according to the same AA report.
28 July 2016:
Daily Hürriyet reporter detained over failed coup probe
Daily Hürriyet reporter Arda Akın was among the journalists detained on July 28 as part of the nationwide probe following Turkey’s failed military coup attempt of July 15.
Detention warrants issued for 42 journalists over failed coup attempt
Detention warrants were issued for 42 journalists on July 25 as a part of ongoing investigations against members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says was behind the July 15 failed coup attempt. The detention warrants were issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s Terrorism and Organized Crime Bureau.
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