Top Turkey court rejects jailed journalist appeals

Court also rules in favour of three journalists, saying their rights were violated in crackdown after 2016 coup attempt.

    Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom index [File: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters]
    Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom index [File: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters]

    Turkey's highest court has rejected appeals from two prominent journalists jailed over links to the failed coup in 2016, state media reported on World Press Freedom Day. 

    The Constitutional Court said on Friday the rights of Nazli Ilicak, 74, and Ahmet Altan, 69, were not violated, state news agency Anadolu said.

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    They were given life sentences last year after being accused of ties to the outlawed group of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of ordering the attempted overthrow. 

    Ilicak is a former MP who wrote for leading dailies including Hurriyet, while Altan is a novelist who founded the now-closed opposition daily Taraf.

    They were accused of appearing together on a pro-Gulen channel just before the attempted coup, saying an overthrow of the government was imminent. 

    Gulen has denied ordering the coup attempt. 

    'Journalists' rights violated'

    Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of another journalist, Ali Bulac, saying his right to freedom of expression and personal security had been violated.

    It has been reviewing rights violations for those arrested after the coup attempt, but its rulings do not automatically affect criminal sentences. 

    On Thursday, the court ruled that the rights of two other journalists - Kadri Gursel and Murat Aksoy - were also violated. 

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    Gursel spent nearly a year in jail following his arrest in 2016 in the wake of the putsch attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July of that year.

    He was convicted last year with several colleagues from Cumhuriyet - one of the few remaining dailies opposing Erdogan - for "helping terrorist organisations" after a trial that sparked concerns over the state of press freedom in Turkey.

    Although Gursel is now free, five other former Cumhuriyet employees, including cartoonist Musa Kart, were returned to prison last week after their sentences were upheld. 

    Aksoy was also arrested after the failed coup. He was sentenced in March to more than two years in prison.

    Cumhuriyet has often had troubles with government authorities, with its former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, fleeing to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to fighting groups in Syria.

    According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 144 jailed journalists in Turkey, most of whom were held in the mass crackdown after the coup bid.

    Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies