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Prosecutor in appeals hearing seeks approval of life sentences given to 6 journalists

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An İstanbul public prosecutor on Friday asked an appeals court to uphold aggravated life sentences handed down to six jailedjournalists including prominent figures Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.

The journalists were given the sentences by a high criminal court in İstanbul in February after their conviction of attempting to destroy the constitutional order.

The appeals hearing of Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan andIlıcak as well as two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, Zaman brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı, along with former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül was held at the 2nd chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Law, which serves as an appeals court. Ahmet Altan’s brother, Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, was also given an aggravated life sentence, but he was released pending appeal in June based on a decision of the Constitutional Court which said Altan’s rights were violated during the trial. Mehmet Altan had been in pre-trial detention since September 2016.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the putsch.

Announcing his opinion during Friday’s hearing, the prosecutor said the sentences given to the six journalists should be upheld.

During the hearing, journalist Ilıcak presented her defense in tears and asked for her acquittal of all charges. She said she has been against coups her entire life.

Ilıcak also denied having any links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

“I am asking for my acquittal. I don’t see myself as a criminal. I think I have refuted all the evidence against me. I have been careful not to present my age as an excuse [not to be imprisoned] during the court proceedings. But I am 74 years old. I spent two freezing winters and two scorching summers in prison. I have seen that I cannot look after myself here. There may be no physical torture, but there is psychological torture,” said Ilıcak.

Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Şimşek and Özşengül also delivered defense statements during Friday’s hearing and said they were given the aggravated life sentences in the absence of concrete evidence against them.

They all denied having any role in the coup attempt and demanded their acquittal.

The court ruled for the continuation of the imprisonment of the five journalists while it set Oct. 2 as the date of the next hearing in the proceedings.

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