Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is stunned by the additional sentence of nearly six years in prison that was passed yesterday on Ahmet Altan, a well-known journalist who was already sentenced to life imprisonment in a separate trial two weeks ago. The absurdity of the new sentence is beyond all measure, RSF said.
In yesterday’s trial, observed by RSF’s Turkey representative, an Istanbul assizes court sentenced Altan to three years in prison for propaganda in favour of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and two years and 11 months for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by accusing him, in a 2016 column for the Haberdar website, of wanting to start a civil war.
The court refused to reduce the sentences, arguing that, because of his criticism of Turkey’s judicial system, Altan did not deserve the application of attenuating circumstances.
“We condemn this grotesque sentence in which the Turkish judicial system has again displayed its readiness to take orders from a government bent on turning a well-known journalist and intellectual into a symbol of an absurd and never-ending persecution,” RSF said.
Altan and two other well-known journalists, his brother Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, were sentenced to life imprisonment on 16 February on a charge of “trying to overthrow constitutional order” for criticizing the government during a television broadcast on the eve of an attempted coup in July 2016.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The already worrying media situation has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, mass trials are being held and the country now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists detained.