A Turkish court has sentenced six journalists for life after finding them guilty of serving as the media arm of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) blamed for the 2016 failed coup that killed 249 people across the nation.
Among the six given aggravated life sentences were Ahmet Altan, the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Taraf newspaper, his brother Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak (Pictured Ahmet Altan (L), Mehmet Altan (M) and Nazli Ilicak (R)).
The Altan brothers and Ilicak were charged with giving coded messages in a television talk show, a day before the abortive military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15.
Ilicak, a fierce advocate of FETÖ, defended the programme by saying it did not imply any coup.
Altan brothers, sons of prominent left-wing journalist Çetin Altan, were fierce critics of the government and often appeared on Gülenist TV channels. Their newspaper Taraf was a mouthpiece for FETÖ before it was closed down last year.
Prosecutors said Ilıcak, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan had contacts with five civilians captured at Akıncı Air Base, which served as a command centre for the putschists during the coup. Among the five was Adil Öksüz, the most wanted figure in the coup cases after Gülen.
Three other defendants — Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — were sentenced to life for trying to abolish the Constitution and overthrow the government, TRT Haber television reported.
Yazıcı was the former visual director of Zaman daily, the main Gülenist publication, while Şimşek was its marketing director. Özşengül was a former Police Academy lecturer.
Özşengül told a Gülenist news channel on the night of the coup that police forces would not resist the coup attempt.
Hundreds like the six sentenced on Friday are facing similar charges in separate trials. They were all accused of having links to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed coup. Gulen denies the accusation.
Advocates of press freedom condemned the ruling as a devastating precedent showing utter disregard for the rule of law.
At least 73 journalists are jailed in Turkey, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which ranks it as the world’s worst jailer of journalists, ahead of China and Egypt.
The International Press Institute said it was “appalled” by Friday’s verdict.