A prosecutor asked for aggravated life sentences for Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan and his brother Ahmet, three suspects accused of serving as the media arm of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) which is behind 2016's deadly coup attempt according to prosecutors. The suspects are among 17 defendants and have been prominent defenders of the group.
Prosecutors said Ilıcak and others knew of the coup attempt and conducted propaganda to pave the way for it by FETÖ members in the military.
Ilıcak and the Altan brothers, who were fierce advocates for the terrorist group, are accused of calling for the coup to take place and of intimate ties with the putschists and senior figures of the terrorist group. Two days before the coup attempt, the three suspects were discussing a potential coup on a TV show. Ilıcak later defended the program by saying that the TV show did not imply any coup.
Ilıcak, a staple of Turkish media for decades, had been a staunch defender of FETÖ, claiming it was not a terrorist organization. She defended the group all the way up until the coup attempt. In her first testimony after her arrest, Ilıcak said she had realized FETÖ was a terrorist group.
The defendants were arrested following the coup attempt, although a majority of them remain at large. Ten suspects are at large and one suspect was released pending trial. The case is the first of its kind for journalists linked to the coup.
The terrorist group is accused of masterminding the foiled coup attempt with the aid of its infiltrators in the military who allegedly carried out a plan personally approved by Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group.
Ahmet Altan is a journalist who worked for Hürriyet and Milliyet before founding Taraf, a newspaper that had been a mouthpiece for FETÖ before it was closed down last year. The Altan brothers were detained in September 2016.
Along with three defendants, Ekrem Dumanlı, the former editor-in-chief of FETÖ mouthpiece Zaman, former journalist Emre Uslu and writer Tuncay Opçin, all known for their barrage of pro-FETÖ propaganda on social media, face life imprisonment on coup charges. Uslu, Opçin and Dumanlı were spotted in the United States following their disappearance after they had arrest warrants issued for them. Şemsettin Efe, the Washington representative of the now-defunct Gülenist Samanyolu TV, is another defendant at large. On the night of the coup, Efe showed keen support for FETÖ in live online broadcasts. Professor Osman Özsoy, a fervent supporter of the terrorist group and among the defendants of the case, made headlines for statements he made on a TV show one month before the coup attempt emerged.
"I wish I could have been a colonel. I would be more helpful to the process," Özsoy cryptically said while discussing the challenges Gülenists faced.
Other suspects include Mehmet Kamış, the deputy editor-in-chief of Zaman, which was appointed trustees before the coup attempt for its links to the terrorist group; its Israel correspondent Abdülkerim Balcı; and Bülent Keneş, who was editor-in-chief of Today's Zaman, the English language version. Tibet Murat Sanlıman, the head of the advertising agency who shot an ad for Zaman that ominously implied a coup one year before it actually took place, was released pending trial in the case.Prosecutors say Ilıcak, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Osman Özsoy, Şemsettin Efe, Emre Uslu and other defendants had contacts with five civilians captured at Akıncı Air Base, which served as a command center for the putschists on July 15. The civilians were Adil Öksüz, Kemal Batmaz, Hakan Çiçek, Nurettin Oruç and Harun Biniş. After Gülen, Öksüz is the most wanted figure in coup cases. A theology lecturer by profession and a senior FETÖ figure, Öksüz is accused of planning the coup attempt in meetings with generals loyal to the terrorist group. He was controversially released by judges believed to be linked to FETÖ after his initial capture at the base and then disappeared. Batmaz, another civilian found at the base after the coup attempt, is accused of being an accomplice of Öksüz. A former executive of Kaynak, which was a business conglomerate that financed FETÖ for years, Batmaz was at the base with civilian Harun Biniş. According to prosecutors, Biniş accompanied Öksüz in pre-coup meetings of Gülenist generals. Çiçek, owner of a FETÖ-linked college and Oruç, a filmmaker, were the other civilians captured at the base, and 17 defendants in FETÖ's media arm trial maintained contact with all of them or at least one person, according to prosecutors.
The terrorist group, which faces a new barrage of trials after the July 15 coup attempt, its latest bid to seize power through its infiltrators, is accused of running media outlets to vindicate its actions and orchestrating defamation campaigns against the group's critics.
The terrorist group once wielded considerable clout in the media where it ran a broadcaster. The group owned several TV stations, published newspapers and magazines that disseminated the group's propaganda and had several radio stations. Most were closed down as part of the crackdown on FETÖ and were handed to trustees as the legal process against FETÖ members got underway.
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