Four journalists from the now-closed Taraf daily have been handed down prison sentences by a Turkish court on conviction of publishing state secrets in their 2010 reporting on an alleged war plan, Turkish media outlets reported.
Former Taraf Editor-in-Chief and author Ahmet Altan, former executive editor of the same newspaper Yasemin Çongar, managing editor Yıldıray Oğur and journalist Mehmet Baransu, who has been behind bars since March 2015, were the defendants in the case, facing up to 52 years, six months in prison for “destroying, using outside the intended purpose of, and illegally acquiring documents related to the security of the state.” Another defendant, Tuncay Opçin, is at large.
They were tried in connection with the disclosure of a war plan called the Egemen (Sovereign) Operation Plan, an out-of-date military war plan drafted by Turkey’s General Staff to respond to a Greek invasion.
In the last hearing of their trial at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Friday, Baransu was sentenced to 13 years on charges of possession of documents classified as state secrets and exposing classified information crucial to state security and interests while Altan, Çongar and Oğur were each sentenced three years, four months on charges of obtaining documents related to state security.
Baransu is incarcerated at Silivri Prison in İstanbul, facing nearly a thousand years in jail as part of scores of different cases related to his journalistic work.
Altan, who was among the journalists arrested in Turkey in a post-coup crackdown in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016, was released from jail in April 2021 in line with a European Court of Human Rights decision after spending nearly five years behind bars.
The Taraf daily, which published extensive reports that angered both Turkey’s military and the government, was among the hundreds of media outlets which were closed down by the government during a state of emergency after the coup attempt.
Turkey has a poor record on freedom of the press and was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.