Imprisoned journalist Ilıcak faces “espionage” charges in new case; implementation of top court’s Mehmet Altan judgment rejected again 

A new lawsuit on “espionage” charges has been opened against journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, who is currently in pretrial detention in connection with a case in which she is standing trial alongside 16 other journalists, including Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan.

In the new indictment, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Ilıcak is accused with “Disclosing confidential information crucial to state security for espionage purposes” under Article 330/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, for which she faces a life sentence.

The grounds for the accusation is a newspaper column by Ilıcak, published on January 2, 2015 in the shuttered Bugün daily and titled “Askerî İstihbarat ve Tahşiyeciler” (The Military Intelligence and Tahşiyeciler).

The 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara referred the case file to a High Criminal Court in Istanbul for further prosecution.

Ilıcak was one of the first journalists taken into custody in the immediate aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt after arrest warrants were issued for 42 journalists on July 25 as part of an investigation into the media leg of the so-called “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure” (FETÖ/PDY), the name given by the Turkish government to the Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement. Ilıcak was arrested on July 30, 2016. The current charge against her is “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” for which she faces an aggravated life sentence.

Ilıcak is currently in pretrial detention at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul.

Mehmet Altan’s release rejected again 

The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on January 24 rejected an appeal by lawyers representing imprisoned journalist Mehmet Altan on January 22 to the trial court, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, requesting his release in line with a January 11 judgment by the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court’s judgment had held that Altan’s pretrial detention constituted a violation of his rights to personal liberty and security, and freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The trial court on January 19 issued a ruling in which they insisted on not implementing the Constitutional Court’s ruling. The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court had ruled for the continuation for Altan’s detention, arguing that the Constitutional Court “usurped authority.”

The 27th High Criminal Court said in its 14-page ruling on January 24, rendered with the dissenting opinion of one of the judges on the three-member panel, that the trial court’s January 19 decision for the continuation of Altan’s detention was valid.

In its 14-page decision, the 27th Penal Court said the Constitutional Court overstepped its legal boundaries by examining the evidence against Mehmet Altan. The lower court also found that Altan’s pre-trial detention had not violated his rights tı personal liberty and security, and freedom of speech.

The 27th Heavy Penal Court argued that the lower court’s ruling was valid and lawful, and said there were “no binding provisions obliging trial courts to act in effect as regards individual applications [to the Constitutional Court].”

The court also argued that local courts were invested with “competency and effectiveness at the stage of assessing evidence.” The court also cited among the reasons for its rejection “the current circumstances in the country” and “the disruption of legal procedures after some suspects fled the country following Constitutional Court judgments.”

The court also argued that if the Constitutional Court’s reasoned judgment were to be taken as a criteria, “Individuals considered to be journalists would only be detained with specific evidences.” “There are no provisions that consider being a journalist a presumption of innocence,” the court said.

Altan’s lawyers will file complaints with the Council of Prosecutors and Judges (HSK) against the 27th Penal Court judges who voted against the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decision.

Nurcan Baysal released on judicial control terms 

T24 columnist Nurcan Baysal, who was taken into custody on January 22 at her home in Diyarbakır, was released on judicial control terms on January 24.

Baysal was detained on grounds of her social media comments concerning the Turkish military’s operation on Afrin. Baysal, one of the founders of the Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DISA), writes on the subjects of the Kurdish issue, development and poverty in various news outlets and periodicals.

Following her interrogation at the police department, Baysal was brought to the courthouse. The prosecutor referred Baysal to a Criminal Judicature of Peace with allegations of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The judgeship released Baysal on January 24 on judicial control terms.

At least 150 people who have voiced critical opinion concerning Turkey’s Afrin operation on social media, including journalists and politicians, have been taken into custody in police raids in various cities across the country since January 20, when the military launched the operation on the northern Syrian town.