Mar 17 2018

Journalists sentenced for allegations of “use of physical force” in coup attempt

The Istanbul court that sentenced six journalists including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, and Nazlı Ilıcak announced their reasoning for sentencing the journalists to life in prison.

The indictment, in which the reasoning behind the ruling is explained, concludes:

“In order to support the violence, bombings, and murders that violated the Constitutional order across the country, the defendants personally went above and beyond immaterial support to contribute to the use of physical force, and are therefore accomplices in the violation of the Constitution.”

The ruling references a 1764 legal text by Italian legal thinker Cesare Beccaria to justify its decision. The ruling argues that attacks on the state could include both immaterial support and physical use of force, suggesting that the journalists’ words and writings directly contributed to the use of physical force in the coup attempt, but not indicating any evidence of the journalists directly using physical force themselves.

The journalists were sentenced to life in prison last month after spending 18 months in prison. The three high profile defendants were Ahmet Altan, one of Turkey's best-known novelists and a former newspaper editor, his brother, Mehmet Altan, an academic and economist, and Nazlı Ilıcak, a prominent journalist. They were arrested following the failed July 2016 coup, which the Turkish government blames on Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Ahmet Altan gained an international audience when his account of the court ruling was published in a New York Times editorial last month. The European Court of Human Rights criticized the legal proceedings, and announced that the Turkish government had “explicitly violated” the journalists’ rights.