Journalist Altan: Existence of judges distinguishes states from armed gangs

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A journalist poses with a portrait of Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan on June 19, 2017 in front of the Istanbul courthouse, where his trial is to take place. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Journalist Ahmet Altan, who appeared before a court on Tuesday for the second hearing of a coup trial, said in his defense that states are distinguished from armed gangs by the existence of judges, the t24 news website reported.

A total of 17 suspects including journalists Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan are being tried on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish government and the Turkish Parliament due to their alleged involvement in a botched coup attempt in July, 2016.

Prominent Turkish novelist and intellectual Ahmet Altan, who has been in pretrial detention since Sept. 23 of last year, said in his defense: “It is the existence of judges that distinguishes a government from an armed gang. And what is it that makes a judge, who has vital importance, a judge? It is not his diploma, his robe or his chair. What makes judge a judge is that he has a godly honesty, and people count on this honesty without doubt.”

“Show me just one piece of concrete evidence concerning these bizarre allegations against us, and I will never attempt to defend myself again and will not apply to an appeals court even if I am given the heaviest of punishments. I am saying it very clearly. Show me one piece of evidence, I will give up my right to appeal and will agree to spend the rest of my life quietly in a prison cell,” Ahmet Altan added.

Altan was arrested on Sept. 23, 2016, after a court charged him with giving subliminal messages in favor of a coup on television, membership in a terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow the government.

Mehmet Altan denied accusations of membership in a terrorist organization and demanded concrete evidence proving that he knew about the coup attempt.

“Why is the prosecutor not presenting concrete evidence, a document indicating that we knew about the coup attempt? He cannot because it is not true. It is a huge lie and an attempt to influence perceptions.”

Stating that he still wanted to trust the judiciary and the courts, Mehmet Altan said: “It is worrying for Turkey that opinions, comments and articles have been used as tools for allegations of crime and presented as objects of terror. This is also evidence of what kind of a period we are in. Suppressing opinions and declaring these people terrorists and putschists in order to destroy freedom of opinion and expression are shameful efforts that will not do good to anyone.”

Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, were first detained on Sept. 10, 2016 and charged with sending coded messages on a television talk show a day before the abortive military coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks three consecutive life sentences for 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.

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