Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals on Friday overturned the sentences of aggravated life imprisonment given to Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three other defendants who were accused of serving as the media arm of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) that is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Ahmet Altan and Ilıcak committed the crime of knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist group, in their case FETÖ, but not of violating the constitution.
The court of appeals acquitted Mehmet Altan in the case on the basis that there was not sufficient and convincing evidence.
It also ruled that the three other defendants — Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — did not violate the constitutional order but were the members of the terror group.
The court rejected the requests of Ahmet Altan, Ilıcak, Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül to be released in the case.
The six defendants were previously sentenced to life in prison on charges of aiding FETÖ plotters and attempting to overthrow the constitution. They had appealed to the high court for their release, but Istanbul's 2nd Appeal Court upheld their sentence in February 2018.
Mehmet Altan was previously released in June 2017 but his sentence was upheld by an appeals court in February 2018 after a penal court rejected the constitutional court's request for his release.
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 in her later years, 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.
Once approving of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) policies against the military's dominance in Turkish politics, the liberal-leaning Altan brothers, sons of prominent left-wing journalist Çetin Altan, became fierce critics of the government in later years, often appearing on Gülenist TV channels.
Ahmet Altan is a writer and 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. Altan, who was the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Taraf daily, was arrested on Sept. 22, 2016 over a speech he made at a TV show aired on the Gülenist-linked Can Erzincan TV on July 14, 2016, a day before the July 15 coup attempt. In his speech, Altan had implied that a coup was imminent. Mehmet Altan, a prominent academic, joined the same show and gave similar messages.
The now-defunct Taraf was known as a mouthpiece for Gülenists both during the time of the notorious sham trials, including the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot cases targeting officers of the Turkish Armed Forces, perpetrated by the infiltrators of the terror group in the judiciary and police and after the state launched a crackdown on Gülenists in 2013.
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.