Turkey’s top court rules rights of jailed journalists Ilıcak and Altan were not violated

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the rights to freedom and security of journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, who were given aggravated life sentences on coup-related charges were not violated, pro-government Yenisafak daily reported on Friday.

The individual applications of 10 journalists, the majority of whom were sentenced to prison over dubious charges of terrorism and coup involvement were examined by the court on Thursday and Friday.

Prominent journalists Altan and Ilicak were sentenced to life in prison over the charges that include attempting a coup against an elected government, trying to overthrow Turkey’s civilian government and constitutional order and being a member of an armed terrorist organization.

Although the top court on Friday said that the rights of Altan and Ilicak were not violated, it also gave a decision that the rights of Ali Bulac, former Zaman daily columnist who was released under judicial control in May 2018, were violated during his prosecution.

The Turkish state shut down daily Zaman in May 2016 after it was taken over by government-appointed trustees for being linked to FETO, the Turkish government’s designation of the faith-based Gulen Movement.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) identifies the movement as a terror organization.

The court ruled on Thursday that “personal freedom and security and freedom of expression” of journalists Kadri Gursel and Murat Aksoy were also violated.

Aksoy was first arrested in September 2016 and was released pending trial in October 2017. After being handed a two year and one-month sentence by an Istanbul court, he returned to prison to serve his remaining jail term.

Gursel, who was arrested in 2016 as part of an investigation on Cumhuriyet daily journalists, was released pending trial the following year. In April 2018, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for supporting a terrorist organization.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court rejected individual applications of journalists Akin Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Sik, Onder Celik and Bulent Utku who were also arrested on the same charges as part of the Cumhuriyet daily case.

The cases of journalists Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan were reviewed by the top court, which ruled they be released in 2018.

Although an Istanbul court first refused to comply with the verdict the two journalists were finally released.

Rulings given by the Constitutional Court are binding for all subordinate courts across Turkey’s legal landscape and judicial system.

The charges against the dissident journalists were politically grounded according to a number of critics, activists, human rights organizations and legal experts.

They claimed that the trials lacked transparency, denial of the right to legal counsel and contained many other obstacles that imperiled the prospect of a fair trial.

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