Turkey sentences six journalists to life in jail over coup links

Published: February 17, 2018 11:13:56 | Updated: February 18, 2018 10:32:03

Protesters support German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in Berlin, Germany, February 14, 2018. (REUTERS photo used for representation)

A Turkish court has sentenced six journalists to life in prison for alleged links to the July 2016 coup plotters.

The judgement came as another Turkish court decided to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, who has been held for a year without charge.

The six were found guilty of links to US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed over the failed coup, says a BBC report.

The court ruling was condemned by human rights groups, including the UN and OSCE representatives on media freedom.

"These harsh sentences are an unacceptable and unprecedented assault on freedom of expression and on the media in Turkey," said David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, and Harlem Desir, the representative on media freedom for the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE).

The six sentenced journalists are Nazli Ilicak, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Fevzi Yazici, Yakup Simsek and Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul.

The Istanbul court found them guilty of 'attempting to abolish the order prescribed by the Turkish constitution or to bring in a new order', Turkish media reported.

All six denied the charges.

The Altan brothers - both veteran journalists and writers - were accused of giving coded messages in a television talk show on the eve of the coup attempt.

Nazli Ilicak is also a well-known journalist in Turkey and has written for a number of newspapers, including Hurriyet and Sabah.

Military officers led a mutiny against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 15 July 2016 which resulted in the deaths of 250 civilian protesters.

Since the abortive coup the Turkish authorities have jailed more than 50,000 people and dismissed more than 150,000 public servants, including journalists, teachers, police and justice officials.

Mehmet Altan, who is also an economics professor, had won a constitutional court ruling in his favour - but it was overruled on Friday.

Separately, Die Welt journalist Deniz Yucel - who holds German-Turkish dual citizenship - was freed from jail on Friday. He had been accused of spreading propaganda.

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