A Turkish court on Tuesday rejected two prominent critical journalists’ demand to be released from jail after an appeals court overturned the court’s ruling against them over “violating the constitutional order”, Turkish media outlets reported on Tuesday.
The Istanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court ruled for the continuation of the detention of Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, alongside former Police Academy lecturer Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul, and former employees of the now-closed Zaman daily, Yakup Simsek and Fevzi Yazici.
In July, the 16th Criminal Department of Turkey’s The Turkish Court of Cassation (Yargitay) had cleared Altan and Ilicak of charges related to violating the constitution, saying that they can only be prosecuted for charges related to providing support for a terrorist organization, referring to the Gulen Movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government identifies the movement as a terror organization and accuses it of masterminding the failed 2016 military coup.
However, the group, led by the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, strongly denies any links to terror groups or activities.
In Tuesday’s hearing, the lower court also approved the Yargitay’s revocation ruling for Altan and Ilicak.
Ilicak demanded to be released due to spending enough time behind bars that amount to the sentence for the remaining charges against her.
“You [the judges] have been trying to judge thoughts since the beginning of the trials. Today, I recommend you to be lawful and not to dare trying thoughts,” Altan said in her defence.
The Istanbul court revoked the travel ban imposed on Mehmet Altan, who was released from prison in June 2018 following a ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM).
The trial, which is followed by representatives from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), was adjourned by the court until November 4.
The five have been behind bars for more than three years pending trial.
The two journalists, Altan and Ilicak, were arrested after the attempted coup. The Turkish authorities accused them of disseminating “subliminal messages” in a televised interview the day before the coup, claiming that they knew about it in advance and they supported the putschists. Consequently, they were sentenced to life imprisonment.
However later, their life sentences have been commuted, and they are sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.
The Paris-based RSF is one of the world’s leading NGOs in the defense and promotion of freedom of information.