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Turkish court upholds 'disgraceful' life sentences for prominent journalists

Turkish journalists and writers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak [Gwitter]

Date of publication: 3 October, 2018

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Turkish journalists Nazli Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan were handed the life sentences in February over alleged connections to the outlawed group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
A Turkish appeals court has upheld life sentences for prominent journalists and three others convicted over links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup.

Veteran journalists and writers Nazli Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan were handed the life sentences in February over alleged connections to the outlawed group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. The case has raised alarm over freedom of expression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called the latest judgement a "judicial lynching".

A total of six defendants had appealed to the high court for their release, but Istanbul's 2nd Appeal Court upheld their sentence, local media reported.

The aggravated life sentences of the three writers mean they are not eligible for parole and cannot be included in future amnesty decisions, pro-government publication Daily Sabah said. 

Ilicak, 73, was one of the very first journalists arrested in July after the coup bid. Briefly an MP, 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. 

Mehmet Altan was released from prison in June, but his sentence was also upheld on Tuesday, after a penal court rejected the constitutional court's request for his release.

"These well-known journalists have been subjected to a judicial lynching," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in reaction to Tuesday's ruling.

"The prospect of their spending the rest of their days behind bars in the harshest form of isolation is quite simply a disgrace for the Turkish authorities. The international community must redouble its efforts to end the completely arbitrary rule that now prevails in Turkey."

Press freedom in Turkey has slipped substantially since the failed attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more than two years ago.

Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any form of recourse, mass trials are being held against suspected Gulen supporters and vocal government opponents and Turkey now has the highest number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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