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Turkey court jails three journalists for life over coup links

The International Press Institute (IPI) said it was "appalled" at the verdict [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2018

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Veteran journalists and writers Nazli Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan were handed life sentences in a case that has raised alarm over free speech under Erdogan.

A Turkish court on Friday jailed three prominent journalists for life over links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, in a case that has raised alarm over freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Veteran journalists and writers Nazli Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan were handed the life sentences at a trial in Istanbul over alleged connections to the outlawed group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, the Anadolu news agency said.

Similar sentences were given to three other suspects.

They were all convicted of seeking to usurp the constitutional order in Turkey.

Gulen, who built up substantial influence in Turkey through media, education and banking interests before falling out with the authorities in 2013, denies having links to the coup bid.

The ruling came as Turkey released on bail German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, the correspondent of the Die Welt daily, who had been held for more than a year without charge in a separate case.

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 156 jailed journalists in Turkey, most of whom were held in the mass crackdown after the failed coup aimed at ousting Erdogan.

Speaking in Ankara hours before the verdict was delivered, the head of a top European rights watchdog Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, expressed concern over the arrests of  journalists, MPs, mayors and activists since the coup.

Ilicak, 73, was one of the very first journalists arrested in July after the coup bid. Briefly an MP from 1999, she wrote for several dailies including Hurriyet

Ahmet Altan, 67, is a novelist and journalist who has written for some of Turkey's leading dailies including Hurriyet and Milliyet. He founded the now closed opposition daily Taraf

Mehmet Altan, 65, has written books on Turkish politics. Both were detained in early September although Ahmet Altan was released in mid-September before rapidly being re-arrested.

In the same case, the court gave life sentences to former Zaman newspaper marketing manager Yakup Simsek, police academy instructor Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul and Zaman layout designer Fevzi Yazici.

The International Press Institute (IPI) said it was "appalled" at the verdict, describing it as in "utter disregard for the rule of law".

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