Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals says Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist group without being its member”
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has requested the reversal of the appellate court’s verdict in the case against jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and longtime newspaper columnist Mehmet Altan, veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, and their three co-defendants.
In February 2018, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had sentenced the Altans, Ilıcak and three of their co-defendants to aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as per Article 309 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). The indictment claimed that the defendants in the case “had prior knowledge of the coup attempt of July 2016,” which the government claims to have been carried out by the religious movement led by Fethullah Gülen.
In October, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, the appellate court overseeing the case, upheld the trial court’s verdict. The defense lawyers then appealed the appellate court’s decision before the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals said in their judicial opinion concerning the appeal that the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” instead of the much serious charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
The judicial opinion asserted that “force and violence” were the essential elements of the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as described in TCK 309, adding that the concepts of “immaterial force” or “threat” were unacceptable in proving this charge in respect of the principle of legality.
Adding that the alleged acts committed by the defendants did not amount to “physical force and violence,” the judicial opinion went on to say that the verdict was based on “a broad assumption” and lacked specifics as to “when the alleged offense began to be committed; which offense the defendants participated in; or in what way they used force and violence.”
The judicial opinion said the court’s presumption that the defendants had committed the alleged offense "jointly and directly" was “erroneous and lacking legal and sufficient grounds.”
The Office of the General Prosecutor submitted their judicial opinion to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 8 January.
The judicial opinion (in Turkish) by the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals can be seen here.
In the event the Chamber rules in line with the Office of the General Prosecutor's judicial opinion, the case file against the Altan brothers and Ilıcak will return to the trial court for retrial, this time on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group.”
The Office of the General Prosecutor also said in their judicial opinion that the Altans’ three co-defendants -- Fevzi Yazıcı, the chief page designer of the shuttered daily Zaman, Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper’s marketing director, and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül -- should have been charged with “membership in a terrorist group.”
The judicial opinion seeks that the Supreme Court of Appeals uphold the verdict concerning Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the seventh defendant in the case, who was acquitted of the charges by the trial court.
In the event the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upholds the appellate court verdict, the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals can still object to the verdict, in which case the file will be reviewed by the Assembly of Criminal Law Chambers.Of the six defendants, Mehmet Altan was released in June by a decision of the appellate court when the court first took up the case. The other defendants remain imprisoned, for well over two years now.