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Court to give final verdict in coup trial of renowned journalists

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An İstanbul high criminal court on Monday began the final hearings in the trial of seven journalists including Nazlı Ilıcak and the Altan brothers who are being tried on coup charges.

The İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court will hold the final hearings of the trial until Feb.16, when it is expected to conclude proceedings.

In addition to Ilıcak, journalists and writers Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan; two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, Zaman brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı; former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül; and advertising company manager Tibet Murat Sanlıman are suspects in the trial. Sanlıman was earlier released on his own recognizance.

There are an additional 10 suspects in the trial who are at large, so the court decided to separate the file of the seven suspects who are in the country.

Representatives from international organizations such as Article 19, Reporters without Borders (RSF), PEN International and Norwegian PEN were following the trial of the journalists on Monday.

Yazıcı, who delivered his defense on Monday, said: “I am an artist. I drew pictures for the Guardian and Washington Post [newspapers]. How can this amount to terrorism?” He asked for his release.

Yazıcı, a Turkish member of the US-based international Society for News Design (SND), in October 2017 sent a letter to the SND community through his wife, who had recently visited him in prison. The designer’s letter was emotional, underlining his harshly restricted living conditions in prison for a crime he denies having anything to do with.

Lawyers Engin Cinmen and Sevgi Taş were asked to leave the courtroom during Monday’s hearing when they insisted that a recent Constitutional Court decision regarding the rights violation of Mehmet Altan and another jailed journalist, Şahin Alpay, be read. Despite the top court’s ruling, Altan and Alpay were not released from jail, which drew strong criticism from domestic and international press advocacy and rights groups.

During the last hearing of the trial on Dec. 11, the prosecutor gave his opinion, accusing the Altan brothers, Ilıcak, Şimşek, Yazıcı and Özşengül of “attempting to destroy the order established by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, or to replace it with another order, or to prevent the actual implementation of that order by the use of force or violence.”

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Ilıcak are among the 17 defendants accused of membership in the alleged “media arm” of the Gülen movement, which is blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding the failed coup on a TV show a day before the putsch.

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

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