3 consecutive life sentences sought for prominent journalists on coup charges

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Novelist Ahmet Altan and his brother Professor Ahmet Altan

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks three consecutive life sentences for 16 people, including prominent Turkish journalists, on coup charges.

The suspects mentioned in the indictment are former Zaman daily CEO Ekrem Dumanlı, former Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, Samanyolu TV Washington representative Şemsettin Efe, Zaman daily journalist Abdülkerim Balcı, Zaman former deputy editor-in-chief Mehmet Kamış, Zaman executive Faruk Kardıç, Zaman daily design director Fevzi Yazıcı, Zaman brand manager Yakup Şimşek, Zaman culture and arts editor Ali Çolak, journalists Nazlı Ilıcak, Emre Uslu, Tuncay Opçin, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, Professor Osman Özsoy and academic Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül.

They are accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish government and the Turkish Parliament.

The Zaman daily, the Today’s Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV are among dozens of media outlets that were closed down by the government in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15 due to their affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement.

The government accuses the movement of masterminding the coup attempt, while the movement strongly denies the accusation.

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

After spending 12 days in detention, journalist and academic Mehmet Altan was arrested by an İstanbul court on Sept. 22, while his brother Ahmet Altan was released under judicial supervision.

Police detained Ahmet Altan later the same day after the İstanbul 1st Penal Court of Peace issued a warrant for his detention.

Ahmet Altan was arrested by an İstanbul court on Sept. 23 for allegedly “attempting a coup” and “membership in ‘FETÖ’,” a term the government coined to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ahmet Altan is a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the Taraf newspaper. The daily ran headlines that led to the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot investigations, which helped the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government suppress the role of the military in Turkish politics. After quitting Taraf, Altan resumed writing harsh critical columns against the increasingly authoritarian AKP government and President Erdoğan.

Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissidents. He was recently targeted by pro-Erdoğan columnist Hilal Kaplan for not being dismissed from his position at the university at a time when hundreds of academics and teachers were being expelled from their posts as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt.

The failed military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others.

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