Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak

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Police in the coastal town of Bodrum detained Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak — a former commentator for the pro-opposition daily newspaper Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV who is better known by her pen name, Nazlı Ilıcak — on July 26, 2016, and transferred her to Istanbul for questioning as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to press reports. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.

Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV were among the more than 100 newspapers, broadcasters, news agencies, and magazines the Turkish government closed by decree on July 27, 2016, using emergency powers it assumed after the attempted coup, saying the media outlets were FETÖ/PDY mouthpieces.

Istanbul’s Fifth Court of Penal Peace on July 30, 2016, arraigned Ilıcak and 16 other journalists, ordering them jailed pending trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," according to the media monitoring group P24. The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the 17 journalists were questioned by prosecutors on accusations of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," "founding or leading an armed terrorist organization," "knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization’s hierarchical structure," and "committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member."

Ilıcak’s trial began in Istanbul on July 19, 2017. Her co-defendants are the brothers Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan; Fevzi Yazıcı, the former layout editor for the shuttered newspaper Zaman; Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper’s former advertising director; and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, a former police academy instructor and TV commentator, according to reports.

The defendants are all charged with: “attempting to eliminate the Constitutional order,” “attempting to eliminate the government of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” “attempting to eliminate the parliament of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” and “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being a member,” according to the indictment, which CPJ reviewed.

Evidence cited against Ilıcak in the indictment include a notebook, social media posts, a TV debate she hosted, during which the Altan brothers allegedly sent subliminal messages in favor of a military coup, her 2012 book Her Taşın Altında “the Cemaat” mı Var? (Is It “the [Gülen Community?]”), and newspaper columns she wrote in 1980, which the prosecutors said were supportive of a coup that year. The incitement also listed her communication with other alleged FETÖ members.

All the defendants denied the charges.

Ilıcak was being held at at Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul, according to press reports.

On February 16, 2018, a court sentenced Ilıcak, alongside Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan, Yazıcı, and Şimşek, to life in prison without parole for “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution,” according to news reports.  

On October 2, 2018, a local appeals court in Istanbul upheld the life sentences, according to reports. The journalists’ lawyers said they will appeal.

In a separate trial on September 6, 2018, in which Ilıcak is charged with "revealing information regarding state security that is supposed to be secret for espionage purposes," a prosecutor asked for a life sentence for Ilıcak, news reports said. Ilıcak, who attended the hearing via teleconference from prison, said she received the document in question–about a religious group in Turkey–via Twitter in 2014, and so the information was already public when she wrote about it.

The next hearing was scheduled to take place on January 22, 2019.

In a July 2018 poll of jailed journalists carried out by the P24 Independent Journalism Association,  Ilıcak said that when she was first imprisoned there was a delay in her receiving medication used to treat a bone thinning condition, and vitamins for her metabolism, but that she now regularly receives her medication.