Journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak's case in which they were sentenced to aggravated life in prison, has been brought before the appeal court. First hearing was held in İstanbul Regional Court of Justice 2. Criminal Chamber, where the Prosecutor Mustafa Öztürk submitted his final opinion requesting the approval of the sentence of all defendants on the grounds that their writings and speeches constituted “intangible threats”.
Defendants were previously found guilty of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” through their articles, books, and statements on a TV programme broadcasted on Can Erzincan TV.
'I admit that I was deceived'
The names and phone numbers of the relatives of the defendants, observers, and press members were taken before entering the courtroom. Nazlı Ilıcak was the first defendant to submit her defense statement in the hearing. She stated: “My father was a victim of the 27 May 1960 coup. He was imprisoned in Yassıada. I am not an enemy of the military, however, I am against military coups and military domination. I am being accused based on my column in Özgür Düşünce newspaper, I would like to state that writing a column in a newspaper is not a crime. Orhan Kemal Cengiz was a writer there as well, he has been acquitted.” Ilıcak mentioned that she was able to understand that the Gulenist movement was a terrorist organization only after the 15 July coup attempt and added: “I was attracted to their religious doings. I had stood up for the Suleymanist (another religious community in Turkey) dormitories in the past as well. I admit that I was deceived.”
Ilıcak also stated that the Constitutional Court decision regarding Mehmet Altan constitutes a precedent for her own case and said: “Zaman newspaper columnists were released. I request my acquittal, and if I am not acquitted, I request my release. I don't want to sound like a victim, however, I am very tired. I am 74 years old and I spent 2 cold winters in prison. I am an honorable journalist. There are no journalists, in the history of the Turkish Republic, who spent more than 2 years in prison at this age. I cannot care for myself. There is no physical torture, however, this is moral torture.”
Zaman newspaper visual designer Fevzi Yazıcı took the floor to submit his defense after Ilıcak. He said: “I am a visual designer. I have never produced a commercial film in my life. I did not participate in the 'smiling baby' commercial film. I only attended its approval meeting because I was invited at the last minute, and was available. Have any soldiers who took part in the coup attempt stated that they received directions from this commercial film? Shouldn't the prosecutor find someone who did, in order to support his claims?”
The 'smiling baby' commercial film was a Zaman commercial from 2015, in which a city was portrayed in gray, with siren noises in the background and ended with a baby smiling.
'Court has violated the constitution'
After the lunch break, Mehmet Altan was next to submit his defense. Constitutional Court had decided that his rights to freedom, security, and free expression were violated, therefore ruled for his release on 11 January 2018. However, the lower court did not apply the Constitutional Court's decision to release Mehmet Altan. On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights decided that the detention of Altan was indeed a violation. This time, the lower court stated that it has abdicated from the case and again, did not release Altan. After a while, Altan was released by İstanbul Regional Court of Justice 2. Criminal Chamber on 27 June. Altan started his defense by explaining the process he went through and added: “How can we take this court's decision seriously? It claims that I committed a capital offense, through compulsion. Is there such a crime in the Turkish Penal Code? No. Compulsion was considered a crime in the Yassıada Courts. The concept of 'compulsion' as a crime, is the product of the 27 May coup in Turkey, and fascism in Europe.”
Ahmet Altan's defense
Ahmet Altan was the last to submit his defense in the hearing. Below are some parts from his statement:
"If it is a crime to believe that the Balyoz coup plan was real, then the Supreme Court Prosecutor who had requested the Balyoz defendants to be punished should have been sentenced to aggravated life in prison.
We were the representatives of law and justice in our case, not the judges. In a country where defendants represent law and justice instead of the judges, it means that the judicial system has collapsed, and so will the state. We are at a stage, where this unlawfulness will be reviewed. You have a chance to repair this damage in the judicial system.
Define the action that is considered as a crime accordingly to the laws and constitution, point out to the law that defines this action as an offense, and finally present the solid evidence that proves this action actually took place.”
The panel of judges asked the prosecutor's final opinion. Prosecutor claimed that the defendants posed 'intangible threats and had moved to the stage of execution', therefore their sentences must be approved. Court adjourned the hearing until 2 October to take the defense statements in response to the prosecutor's final opinion.