Istanbul, October 3, 2018–An Istanbul court of appeals yesterday upheld the sentences of life in prison without parole handed to four prominent Turkish journalists in February, media reported. Mehmet Altan, his brother Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, and Fevzi Yazıcı were convicted of having links to the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey accuses of being behind the failed 2016 attempted coup. The journalists, who deny the charges, said they would appeal to the Supreme Court, according to reports.
“Upholding life sentences against prominent journalists shows how deeply Turkey has sunk in its outright fight against criticism,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Research Associate Gulnoza Said, in New York. “We call on Turkish authorities to not contest the appeal of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, and Fevzi Yazıcı, and to end the persecution of these journalists and the scores of others jailed or charged in retaliation for their reporting.”
Mehmet Altan is a columnist and TV host most recently with shuttered outlets Can Erzincan TV and the daily Özgür Düşünce; Ahmet Altan is a former chief editor for the shuttered daily Taraf; Ilıcak is a veteran journalist, columnist, and TV host most recently with shuttered outlets Can Erzincan TV and Özgür Düşünce; and Yazıcı is the former editor for the shuttered daily Zaman. All of the journalists except Mehmet Atlan are in custody.
Turkey remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists with 73 journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its last prison census.