Ahmet Altan

Turkey Sentences, Then Frees, 2 Journalists Jailed in Crackdown

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ISTANBUL (New York Times) — A Turkish court sentenced two journalists to about 10 years in prison for aiding a terrorist group but also ordered them released Monday, November 4, in view of time served, in one of the most prominent cases of journalists jailed in the crackdown after the 2016 failed coup.

The release of the journalists, Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, was welcomed by human rights and press freedom groups but was not taken as a sign that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had eased his aggressive prosecution of political opponents and dissenters.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained in the last three years in cases that the government has linked to the coup attempt and to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric whom Turkey has accused of instigating it.

Altan and Ilicak denied the charge that they had aided a terrorist group or had any involvement in the failed coup. Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months, and Ilicak to eight years and nine months; they were released under judicial control, a condition that requires them to report regularly to a local police station.

The court on Monday also acquitted Altan’s brother Mehmet Altan, a journalist who had already been released from jail.

The European Union has put intense pressure on Turkey to improve its judicial record and release many of the dissidents, journalists, lawyers and political figures who are currently held in jail. Turkey’s business institutions have also lobbied for the same in an effort to ease the strain on the country’s economy.

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Altan and Ilicak were previously sentenced to life without parole in a decision that was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. They then faced a second trial on lesser charges; the case is expected to continue to the appeal courts, and likely to the Supreme Court.

Gulen lives in exile in Pennsylvania and has denied any involvement in the coup.

 

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