Gizem Edin, İstanbul – The appeal of three journalists sentenced to life in prison was rejected by İstanbul Regional Court 2. Chamber today. Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and Mehmet Altan will remain imprisoned and have 15 days to pursue a further appeal.
lıcak and Altan were present in the courtroom for the appeal hearing, while Altan appeared via the judicial teleconferencing system SEGBİS. Debbie Luxon from journalist advocacy organization English Pen was present to monitor the hearing, as was Republican People’s Party MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
Ilıcak was the first defendant to speak and presented a fiery defense. “I have never worked for Zaman newspaper or Samanyolu TV which were known to be owned by the Gulenist movement. I worked with Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV, which were both owned by Recep Aktaş. If those media outlets are somehow linked to Gulenists, then we should ask Recep Aktaş about it.”
She went on to note that she has applied for a hearing before the Constitutional Court, and that due to similarities between her case and that of Mehmet Altan, she expects the application to be successful. Ilıcak broke down in tears at the end of her statement. “Please end this unlawfulness now. Almost all columnists like me were released. There are Constitutional Court precedents for my case, regarding Alpay and Altan. I have not committed any crime.”
Mehmet Altan then rose to present his defense, during which he ferociously critiqued the prosecutor’s final opinion which alleges that the defendants violated Article 309 of the Turkish Criminal Code. “Article 309 starts by stating 'the use of force and violence'. Are we facing an understanding that considers writing and commenting as force and violence here?” He completed his defense statement by reading various paragraphs from decisions of the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights which declared that his “right to personal freedom and safety” and “right to free expression and press” were violated.
Ahmet Altan was the last defendant to present a defense statement and used the opportunity to ridicule the prosecution’s case. “The prosecutor accuses us with a crime which has no material outputs but creates 'intangible threats',” noted Altan. “He then claims that there is 'evidence' that backs up our crime. How can a crime that has no material outputs have any evidence?”
Altan went on to offer a critique of the hearing. “The prosecutor is ignoring the Constitutional Court and its decisions. Article 153 of the Constitution clearly states that all courts are bound by Constitutional Court decisions. However this court is ignoring them.” At this point the presiding judge interrupted Altan and warned him that his words “were exceeding his right to defend himself.” Altan concluded by lampooning the air of unreality which has hung over the proceedings. “They want to punish me, however they cannot find any law to back it up. They cannot, and they will not. Because I am right. I do not care to spend my life in a cell. I feel like I am wandering in a comic book. Nothing seems serious or scary to me.”
İstanbul 26. High Criminal Court sentenced Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Turgut Özşengül to aggravated life in prison on 16 February 2018. Murat Sanlıman was acquitted. The defendants were charged with "attempt to overthrow the constitutional order".
Defense lawyers appealed the verdict and brought the case before İstanbul Regional Court 2. Chamber. İstanbul 2. Regional Court released defendant Mehmet Altan from detention on 18 June 2018, after both the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights decided that his right to freedom and security was violated.
Updated: December 3 2018