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Turkey demands life terms for 3 journalists in coup bid trial

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A journalist poses with a portrait of Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan on June 19, 2017 in front of the Istanbul courthouse, where his trial took place. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish prosecutors have called on Ankara to hand life terms to three veteran journalists currently on trial over accusations of having links to last year’s failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The plea was made to the Istanbul criminal court on Monday as the brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan along with well-known commentator Nazli Ilicak were charged with violating the Turkish constitution and having foreknowledge of the coup attempt, which Ankara blames on the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The court claimed that the journalists had been involved in the sending of subliminal messages regarding the imminent occurrence of the coup, including an October 2015 advertising campaign by the now-defunct pro-Gulen newspaper Zaman.

All the three individuals rejected the charges.

The court has ordered them to remain in prison and said the next hearing would be on February 12.

Ahmet Altan was for years a columnist with top dailies like Hurriyet and Milliyet before founding daily Taraf in 2007.He resigned as Taraf editor-in-chief in 2012. He has also written several novels. Mehmet Altan is the author of several books on politics in Turkey.

Nazli Ilicak, a former lawmaker, was one of the very first journalists arrested in July after the coup bid. The 73-year-old wrote for several dailies including Hurriyet.

There are reportedly 171 journalists behind bars in Turkey over suspected links to Gulen’s movement branded by the Turkish government as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).


Damaged vehicles are seen in front of a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

During the July 15 botched putsch last year, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and Erdogan’s government was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary. 

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

The 76-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he said is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”

This photo taken on July 18, 2016, shows Turkish cleric and opposition figure Fethullah Gülen at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, the United States. (Photo by AFP)

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

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