Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes yesterday’s release of well-known Turkish journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak after more than three years in prison, although they have been given long jail sentences on a spurious charge of assisting a terrorist organization and will remain subject to judicial control.
Their release ends a long ordeal for themselves and their families. Arrested in September 2016, they were originally sentenced to life imprisonment on a charge of trying to overthrow constitutional order, but the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their conviction in July 2019 and ordered a retrial.
The second trial before an Istanbul court ended yesterday with Altan being sentenced to ten and a half years in prison and Ilıcak sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison. But the court ordered their released under judicial control on the grounds of the time they have already spent in prison. They cannot leave the country.
RSF attended the entire trial. The sentences were imposed under article 220, paragraph 7 of Turkey’s criminal code, which stipulates a sentence of at least seven and a half years in prison for anyone convicted of assisting an illegal organization, even if they are not a member. Altan’s lawyers have decided to appeal.
“The release of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak under judicial control is a relief even if they have been given long and unjustified sentences,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu said. “We call for their convictions to be quashed. We also urge the Turkish authorities to lose no time in amending article 220 of the criminal code, whose vague wording has often been used to silence media personnel since it took effect in 2005.”
The revision of article 220 could be included in Turkey’s planned judicial reforms, the first packet of which were adopted by parliament on 17 October.
The Istanbul court yesterday acquitted Altan’s brother, fellow journalist Mehmet Altan, who was released conditionally in June 2018 after being held for 21 months. His acquittal means he will be able to seek reparation for the time he spent in prison.
Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
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