Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and 3 other co-defendants handed down aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow constitutional order”

Ahmet Altan, novelist, journalist and the former editor in chief of the shuttered Taraf daily, his brother, professor of economics and columnist Mehmet Altan, and veteran journalist and columnist Nazlı Ilıcak on February 16 were handed down aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

Announcing its verdict at the end of the five-day hearing that took place from February 12-16 in Silivri, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled that each of the six imprisoned defendants in the case is sentenced to life in prison while it ruled that there was no need to issue separate verdicts on the charges of “attempting to overthrow the Parliament” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” as those offenses were “implicit in the offense of ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order’.”

The court acquitted Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the only defendant in the case who had been released pending trial, and ruled for the lifting of the judicial control terms imposed on him.

The court ruled that on account of the “defendants’ attitudes throughout the trial, no reduction of sentence shall be granted.” The panel also ruled to keep the six one US dollar notes found in Mehmet Altan’s house, as well as a notebook belonging to Ilıcak that includes her personal notes in her handwriting, with the case file as evidence.

The court acquitted Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the only defendant in the case who had been released pending trial, and ruled for the lifting of the judicial control terms imposed on him.

The full text of the verdict, in Turkish, can be seen here.

Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said on his Twitter account following the announcement of the verdict that he was “appalled by today’s court decision to imprison journalists including Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, for life in Turkey.” “I call on Turkey to reverse today’s decision and release the journalists,” Désir wrote.

Désir tweeted earlier on Friday that he had been closely following the trial and called for the dismissal of the charges against journalists.

Earlier on Friday, before the court went into a recess prior to announcing its verdict, all seven defendants made their closing speeches.

Ahmet Altan said in his final address to the court: “I have been prosecuted a hundred times before. But this is the first time I am appearing before a court who is committing a breach of the constitution while trying me.” “A government would not let its entire system fall apart on account of a decision by a couple of politicians and a couple of judges. It would be for everyone’s best interest for you to give up this unlawful, unconstitutional, illegal endeavor,” Altan concluded.

In her closing speech, Ilıcak said: “The Constitutional Court has rendered a judgment that constitutes a precedent for this case. The Supreme Court of Appeals has pointed to the element of ‘force and violence.’ I ask the court to abide by the case law and I demand my acquittal.”

Speaking after Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan also emphasized in his final address to the court the Constitutional Court ruling of January 11, 2018, which held that Altan’s pretrial detention violated his rights to personal liberty and security and freedom of expression. Mehmet Altan concluded his closing remarks: “During yesterday’s session, when a defendant spoke about justice in the afterlife, your panel pointed to the Constitution. I found that to be very pleasant. A verdict in contradiction to the Constitutional Court’s judgment would undermine the rule of law. Your verdict will either turn [the course of events] into a horror movie or will raise hope.”

Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were both arrested during police raids on their homes on September 10, 2016. Mehmet Altan was sent to prison pending trial on September 22, while Ahmet Altan, initially released after 12 days in police custody before being re-arrested, was imprisoned on September 23. Ilıcak was arrested on July 30, 2016 and later sent to Bakırköy Prison, where she has been held in pre-trial detention since.

The fifth hearing of the trial into seven defendants started on February 12 at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court. The hearing was monitored by P24 in the courtroom along with international NGOs including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Article 19, International PEN, Norwegian PEN.

The case file will next go to an appellate court. In the meantime, all six imprisoned defendants in the case will remain behind bars.

The Altans’ lawyers said they will appeal the verdict.