Four journalists, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı and Nazlı Ilıcak, have appealed to the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice 2. Criminal Chamber against a lower court’s ruling finding them guilty of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.
The defendants were found guilty of civic disruption over books and articles they published and statements they made on Can Erzincan TV. The prosecution requested that the appeal be dismissed on the grounds that their activities constitute “intangible threats” to the Turkish state.
Various relatives of the defendants, members of the public and members of the press were present in the courtroom to observe the proceedings. Prior to the commencement of the hearing the names and phone numbers of all observers were recorded by court officials.
“I was deceived”
Ilıcak was the first to present her defense. “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 explained that while she had initially found the Gulenist movement appealing, she understood that they were a terrorist organization in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. “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 noted the existence of precedents supporting her acquittal and described the strain her imprisonment is causing. “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.”
Yazıcı then took the floor to present his defense. Yazıcı was a visual designer for Zaman newspaper. The prosecution alleges he was involved in the infamous ‘Smiling Baby’ commercial in which a city was portrayed in gray, with siren noises in the background and ended with a baby smiling.
“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?”
Mehmet Altan presented his defense statement after the lunch break. Both the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights have ruled that Altan’s imprisonment was a violation of his rights to freedom, security and expression. Lower courts in İstanbul twice refused to comply with the requests of the Constitutional and European Court of Human Rights that Altan be released. Altan was eventually released in late June. Altan described this chain of events and questioned “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 was the last defendant to present his defense 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 Prosecutor then rose to claim that the defendants posed an intangible threat to the state and were about to execute that threat when they were detained. The court adjourned the hearing until October 2 to allow the defendants to prepare responses to the prosecutor.
Updated: December 3 2018