Turkey’s top appeals court declines to uphold aggravated life imprisonment of journalists

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Veteran journalists Ahmet Altan (L) and Nazlı Ilıcak.

The 16th Criminal Department of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has declined to uphold the aggravated life sentences handed down by a lower court to journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, and Yakup Şimşek, the Evrensel newspaper reported on Friday.

The ruling recommended Mehmet Altan’s acquittal due to a lack of sufficient and credible evidence while stating that Ahmet Altan, Ilıcak, Yazıcı and Şimşek should be found not guilty of violating the constitution but guilty of knowingly and willfully aiding the faith-based Gülen movement, which Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

The court also rejected requests for the release of Ahmet Altan, Ilıcak, Yazıcı and Şimşek.

The file will now be sent back for review by the high criminal court in İstanbul that oversaw the journalists’ case.

If the lower court abides by this ruling, Mehmet Altan will be acquitted and the prison sentences of Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan, Yazıcı and Şimşek will be reduced to no longer than 15 years.

On the other hand, the lower court has the authority to ignore the decision, in which case the file will be forwarded to the Supreme Court of Appeals’ General Assembly for Criminal Matters, which will deliver the final decision.

The Altan brothers, Yazıcı, Şimşek and Ilıcak stood trial for their publications and faced terrorism-related charges, as was the case with many journalists in Turkey after the coup attempt in 2016.

With over 150 journalists behind bars, Turkey is considered the world’s worst jailer of journalists. It ranked 157th out of 180 in the 2018 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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