Turkey, life sentence sought for three journalists accused of complicity in (failed) coup

Brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and the 73-year-old columnist Nazli Ilicak. Judges rule they attempted to overthrow government and constitutional order and are guilty of complicity with a terrorist organization. Lawyers bail application denied. The government wants to build 228 new prisons in five years.


Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Turkish court has demanded a life sentence for three prominent journalists and intellectuals, accused of links with the masterminds that organized the (failed) July coup d'état. According to the official agency Anadolu, the brothers are Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, together with the famous 73-year-old chronicler and intellectual Nazli Ilicak.

The magistrates have ruled that they "tried to overthrow the government", "attempted to overturn the constitutional order" and "committed a crime in the name of a terrorist organization", without "being a member".

The prosecutor has asked for life imprisonment - the maximum sentence, since there is no death penalty which, however, the Turkish president and large sections of the population want to restore - for each of the three counts of indictment.

At the conclusion of the indictment, the judges recessed  the trial until February 12th and ordered the continuation of the precautionary custody in prison for the three defendants. Therefore, their lawyers bail requests submitted during the hearing were rejected.

Yesterday three others people were also threatened with life imprisonment during preliminary hearings: the former marketing director of the daily Zaman Yakup Simsek, the instructor of the police academy Sükrü Tugrul Özsengü and Zaman cartoonist Fevzi Yazici. It is a further confirmation of the crackdown imposed by Ankara on information and which places the country (according to Reporters Without Borders, RSF) at 155th place out of 180 for freedom of the press.

Just over one and a half years since the failed coup in Turkey during the night between July 14 and 15 2016, which has facilitated rather than undermined the total dominion of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the campaign of repression launched by the authorities against alleged accomplices or supporters continues. Among the accusations, most often pretentious, the affiliation to Kurdish "terrorist" groups or the belonging to the movement that belongs to the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, in exile in Pennsylvania (United States).

According to Erdogan and leading authorities, he is the true mastermind of the coup in Turkey during which 270 people died and thousands were injured. The Ministry of the Interior issued a statement announcing that in the last week alone, the security forces carried out 1,323 operations, which resulted in the arrest of 4,062 suspects. In total, over 50 thousand people have been arrested, over 140 thousand suspended or driven from work , public or private.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government is continuing its plan to extend its prisons, which provides for the construction of 228 new structures within the next five years. In this way the overall capacity of the prison system should increase by almost 138 thousand. Today there are 384 prisons with a total capacity of 207,279 people. A number less than the total prison population that, in October 2017, had 228.983 prisoners. On completion, according to the government, the prisons will have a capacity of almost 350 thousand units.

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