Harms: Yücel’s release overshadowed by cruel verdict against his Turkish colleagues

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EP's Rebecca Harms

Rebecca Harms, spokeswoman for foreign affairs and expert on Turkey in the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, on Friday criticized the verdict of a Turkish court sentencing six journalists to aggravated life imprisonment on charges of attempting to disrupt the constitutional order.

“The positive news of Deniz Yücel’s release, which makes me very happy for him and his wife, is overshadowed by the cruel verdict of life-long solitary confinement for six of his Turkish journalist colleagues, including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, and Nazli Ilicak,” said Harms in a written statement.

“These rulings are a terrible blow to all concerned journalists and all those who face similar unfounded charges and have been detained in Turkey for months and years now,” she added.

“I repeat my urgent call to the European Court of Human Rights to finally rule on these cases without any further embarrassing delay,” said Harms.
“The EU and its member states must try much harder to have an impact on Turkey. The EU needs to be ready to use its economic weight to push Turkey to return to the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

Yücel, a German Turkish journalist, was released on Friday by an İstanbul court following a year spent in Silivri Prison, after he was formally charged with disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

Another court in İstanbul on Friday handed down aggravated life sentences to three prominent journalists and three other defendants on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order even after Turkey’s highest court had ruled for the release of one of them.

Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his journalist brother Ahmet, were charged with giving coded messages on a television talk show a day before an abortive military coup in 2016. Nazlı Ilıcak, another veteran journalist, two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, Zaman brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı, as well as former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül were also given aggravated life sentences, while advertising company manager Tibet Murat Sanlıman, another defendant who was not in pretrial detention, was acquitted.

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