Turkish court frees two journalists after three years in prison

Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak were released on Monday after being charged with helping a 'terrorist' group.

    Nazli Ilicak, left, is a former MP who wrote for leading newspapers including Hurriyet [DHA/AP]
    Nazli Ilicak, left, is a former MP who wrote for leading newspapers including Hurriyet [DHA/AP]

    A Turkish court ordered the release under supervision of two prominent journalists jailed over alleged links to the so-called "Gulen network".

    Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak walked out of prison on Monday evening where they had been serving a sentence of 10-and-a-half years and eight years and nine months, respectively, for "helping a terrorist group", state news agency Anadolu reported.

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    "As much as I am happy to be among the people I love and be able to see the sky again, this is no time for jubilation," Altan told media outlet ARTICLE 19 upon his release. 

    "It is hard to receive the news of one's release when you're among other innocent people - thousands of them - who are being kept in prison unjustly," he added.

    The two journalists were ordered freed for time already served - about three years each. Both were also ordered not to leave the country. 

    Altan and Ilicak were sentenced to life in prison in 2018, but the top criminal appeals court overturned the ruling in July this year. 

    The pair were convicted of aiding the network of US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish officials identified as the mastermind of a failed 2016 coup.

    Altan and Ilicak denied any involvement calling such accusations "grotesque". 

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses former ally-turned-foe Gulen of having ordered the attempted coup and lists his movement as a "terrorist" organisation. Gulen has strongly denied any involvement in the failed coup bid.

    Altan, 69, is a novelist and journalist who founded the opposition Taraf newspaper, which has since shut down. Ilicak, 74, is a former MP who wrote for leading newspapers including Hurriyet. 

    Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.

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    SOURCE: News agencies