Top court’s prosecutor asks for revocation of rulings in prominent journalists’ trial

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The chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has asked for revocation of the aggravated life sentences handed down to six journalists on coup charges, saying that the journalists should be given sentences on terrorism charges, Turkish media reports said on Thursday.

A regional appeals court in İstanbul in October 2018 upheld aggravated life sentences handed down to six jailed journalists including prominent figures Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.

The journalists were given the sentences by the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in February 2018 after their conviction of attempting to overturn the constitutional order.

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, are the other defendants in the trial who were given aggravated life sentences.

The appeals process of the journalists is currently taking place at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals where the court’s chief prosecutor asked for the revocation of the regional appeals court’s rulings.

The prosecutor said the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should be tried not on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order but knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization, which calls for a prison sentence of from five to 10 years.

As for the case of Şimşek, Yazıcı and Özşengül, the prosecutor said they should stand trial on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, which calls for a prison sentence of between seven-and-a-half and 15 years.

If the Supreme Court of Appeals makes a ruling in line with the opinion of the prosecutor, the journalists will be retried.

The journalists are being associated with the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The Turkish government also labels the movement a terrorist organization although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the abortive putsch.

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.

Other than Mehmet Altan, the other five journalists in the trial are behind bars.

Mehmet Altan was released pending appeal in June 2018 based on a Constitutional Court ruling in the January of the same year.

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