‘Merciless, unjust and unfair,’ author Pamuk says of conviction of journalists

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Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most famous writer and a Nobel laureate in literature, has criticized the aggravated life sentences handed down to six journalists including the Altan brothers and Nazlı Ilıcak by a Turkish court last week, describing the court ruling as “merciless, unjust and unfair.”

An İstanbul high criminal court last Friday handed down aggravated life sentences to six journalists on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order.

Speaking to the T24 news website, Pamuk said: “What will bind us to each other is not the fear of imprisonment and never-ending threats but peace and freedom of thought. What has been massacred is not only these prominent writers whose works have been happily read and debated by the public for 40 years,” adding that public faith and trust in justice are also damaged by such disproportionate rulings.

The author said losing these fundamental values ruins the future of a nation, calling on the government to abandon its policy of punishing and imprisoning its critics.

“This verdict needs to be reviewed,” he said.

Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his journalist brother Ahmet, were charged with sending coded messages on a television talk show a day before an abortive July 15 military coup in 2016. Ilıcak, another veteran journalist, and 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.

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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