European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: Six journalists and media workers sentenced to life over coup attempt

A Turkish court jailed on Friday 15 February three journalists, Mehmet (65) and Ahmet (67) Altan as well as Nazli Illicak (73) for life over allegations of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt. A similar punishment was handed to three other suspects: Zaman newspaper marketing manager Yakup Simsek, police academy instructor Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul and Zaman layout designer Fevzi Yazici. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is appalled by this verdict which confirms Turkey’s disregard for rule of law.

The Altan brothers and Nazli Ilicak were detained since September 2016 on charges including “attempting to overthrow the Turkish Grand National Assembly”, “attempting to overthrow the government of Turkey”, “attempting to abolish the Constitutional order” and “committing crimes on behalf of an armed terrorist organisation without being a member”. The three journalists always denied any implication in the failed coup.

The Altan brothers and Ilicak were also accused of appearing together on a TV show on a pro-Gulen channel just before the coup bid and issuing “subliminal messages” that the attempted overthrow was in the offing.

The conviction defies an order by Turkey’s highest court to release Mehmet Altan in January, after it found that his imprisonment had violated his constitutional rights. The ruling was not implemented by the criminal court, saying it had not been properly communicated.

This case is the first convictions of journalists in trials related to the failed coup and sets a very bad precedent for all the other journalists charged with similar groundless charges.