Prominent Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, who was convicted on terrorism-related charges for previously working at media outlets considered close to the Gülen movement, said she was “very happy” with a recent European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling, saying it acquitted her of terrorism links.
The court on Tuesday ruled that working for media outlets close to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by Ankara of orchestrating an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016, and expressing doubts about the Turkish government’s narrative on the failed coup were not plausible grounds for terrorism-related charges.
Faulting Turkey for violating Ilıcak’s rights to liberty and security as well as freedom of expression, the ECtHR stated that the charges that led to her imprisonment for more than three years weren’t plausible.
“It is a very important decision for me because I have been acquitted,” she told news website Muhalif.
“I’m very happy about this ruling. … Unfortunately, the ruling was made by five [judges], with one dissenting vote by a Turkish judge. Well, we spent three years and four months in prison. So what’s done is done. They convicted us on terrorism charges… What did we do to become a terrorist [organization] member?” Ilıcak said.
Ilıcak recalled that she felt “very sad” and “disappointed” when her individual application to the Constitutional Court was rejected.
“Things like this affect one in prison. … It’s also very hard for someone at my age. I couldn’t sleep for days. I fell into a depression,” the 77-year-old Ilıcak said.
When asked what she would do with the 16,000 euros the Strasbourg court ordered Turkey to pay her in non-pecuniary damages, Ilıcak replied: “I’m not working right now. So if get it, I’ll spend it on myself.”
Ilıcak was taken into custody on July 26, 2016, ten days after the failed coup.
Membership in a terrorist organization and participating in the attempted coup were the accusations lodged against the journalist, who was later arrested.
Ilıcak was initially convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, but the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals and, after a retrial, she was sentenced to eight years, nine months, this time “for voluntarily aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without holding membership in it.” She was released by the court under judicial supervision in November 2019, and in April 2021 the top appeals court again overturned Ilıcak’s conviction. The criminal proceedings are still ongoing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, following corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Erdoğan’s close circle.
The war against the movement culminated after the attempted coup because Erdoğan and his AKP government accused the movement of masterminding the abortive putsch and initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Although both Gülen and the members of his group strongly deny any involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activities, Erdoğan’s AKP has detained a total of 319,587 people while jailing 99,962 over alleged links to the movement as part of a massive purge launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, according to the latest Interior Ministry data.