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05 July

Appeals court overturns “coup” convictions in Altans case

Supreme court says Mehmet Altan should be acquitted while Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should face terrorism-related charges

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.
 
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Mehmet Altan, who was released in June 2018 by a decision of the appellate court on account of a Constitutional Court judgment in January, should be acquitted, citing lack of sufficient and credible evidence.
 
As for Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, the court said they should face the lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
 
The decision, as cited by Anadolu, said it could not be proven that the defendants had participated in the crime of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order as perpetrators. It said that the case file also failed to offer evidence that Altan and Ilıcak were members of what it called the FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization, having organic links with the hierarchical structure of the group and involved in activities that represent a certain degree of continuity, diversity and frequency sufficient to be regarded as qualifying for membership.
 
But the supreme court judges rejected requests for release of Altan, Ilıcak and three other co-defendants in the case, who have been in prison for about three years.
 
As for the three co-defendants, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Fevzi Yazıcı, the art director of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, Yakup Şimşek, the marketing director of the same daily, and commentator and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül should be charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” which carries up to 15 years in jail, instead of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
 
Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül have all been imprisoned as part of the case for over three years now.
 
The case is now expected to be sent back to the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, which originally handed the verdicts for retrial.
 
In January, the Constitutional Court ruled that Mehmet Altan’s detention was in violation of his right to personal liberty and security and freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The appellate court that took up the case ruled on June 27, 2018 that Altan should be released on the basis of the Constitutional Court ruling, even though the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court that had sentenced Altan and his co-defendants to aggravated life imprisonment and the next court of first instance had earlier refused to release him.
 
The six defendants including Altan brothers and Ilıcak were given aggravated life sentences in February 2018 for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

On 2 October 2018, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, the appellate court overseeing the trial, rejected the appeals against the aggravated life sentences and ruled for the continuation of detention of all imprisoned defendants in the case.
 
On 3 May 2019, the Constitutional Court rejected the individual applications filed on behalf of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. In its reasoned judgement released on 26 June 2019, 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’.”

Tags: Ahmet Altan ,Mehmet Altan ,Nazlı Ilıcak ,Turkey ,media ,press freedom

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