Court rejects requests for release of suspects, including Altan brothers and Ilıcak

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Ahmet Altan (L) and Mehmet Altan

An İstanbul court on Friday ruled for a continuation of the pretrial detention of media members including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who are being held as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, Cumhuriyet reported.

The İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court ruled in accordance with demand of the prosecutor and against the request for their release from jail by the lawyers of 17 suspects including Ilıcak, the Altan brothers, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek, who have been held in pretrial detention for 11 months.

The court based its ruling on “current evidence” and “strong suspicion of a crime having been committed,” “the possibility of the absence of judicial control” and “the existence of a flight risk.”

The next court hearing will be held on Sept. 19.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks three consecutive life sentences for 17 people: 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, former deputy editor-in-chief of Zaman 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 academics Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Tibet Murad Sanlıman.

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

Well-known Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan said in his court defense on Thursday that the accusations directed at him in the indictment lack any legal basis and that the prosecutor who drafted it did not bother to include any evidence to back up his accusations.

Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, were detained in September and charged with sending coded messages on a television talk show a day before the abortive July 15 military coup.

“This text, which is claimed to be an indictment and lacks any intelligent or legal basis, doesn’t even deserve a defense. When you read the indictment, you understand that places called courthouses have turned into legal slaughterhouses,” Altan said.

The famous writer said he would still present a defense and show the contradictions, lies and inaccurate claims in the indictment to leave a footnote in history because he believes justice will return to Turkey sooner or later.

Describing the accusation as ridiculous, Altan said how can knowing someone be considered evidence of a crime.

“If your neighbor stands trial on charges of forgery, will you also stand trial on same charges just because you know him? In order for you to be accused of something and to be held responsible for doing it, you need to commit that act yourself or take part in committing it. Is it not necessary to prove that you took part in that act? Of course, it is. Is there any such evidence? Of course not. There is only verbiage based solely on lies,” said Altan.

Altan’s younger brother, Mehmet, who delivered his defense during the third hearing of the trial on Wednesday, denied that he sent subliminal messages to coup plotters who tried to overthrow the Turkish government last year, saying he had been put on trial for a crime that does not exist.

“If Rousseau were alive today and had shared his views on TV, he would be taken into custody for giving subliminal messages,” Altan told the court, referring to Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

“There were no subliminal messages on that TV program. … I have been detained for a nonexistent message, over a nonexistent crime,” he said according to a copy of his defense statement posted online.

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 the failed coup attempt on July 15 due to their affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement.

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