Turkish court sentences six for life over failed coup

Turkey's state-run news agency says a court in Istanbul has sentenced six people accused of involvement in a 2016 coup attempt to life prison terms
Nazli Ilıcak (L), Mehmet Altan (C), Ahmet Altan (R).
Friday, 16 February 2018 16:27

A Turkish court on Friday sentenced three journalists to life in jail on charges of aiding the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen’s network, which is blamed for a failed coup in July 2016.

Gülenist liberal Ahmet Altan, the former editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper, his brother, journalist and academic Mehmet Altan, were charged with giving coded messages in a television talk show a day before the failed July 15 military coup. 

The younger brother, Mehmet Altan is a professor of economics but is better known as a columnist who pioneered the trend called "Second Republicans" demanding the termination of the "First Republic" founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Nazlı Ilıcak, another Gülenist journalist and former MP, was also handed life imprisonment.

CIA-linked Gülen network, led by US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's former ally, was one of the masterminds of 15 July 2016 coup attempt.


Ahmet Altan is the former editor-in-chief of Taraf, a Turkish daily that has taken a sharp critical stance against the republicans. The controversial daily funded by Gülen network rocked Turkey with manufactured documents on the alleged coup preparations against Erdoğan's AKP government during the first decade of the 2000s.

Taraf played a devastating role in institutionalizing the alliance of Erdoğan's AKP party and the Gülenist network. The newspaper had been launched at a critical time, in November 2007, just a year before the Ergenekon trials took place, which included many military officers, journalists and opposition figures for allegedly plotting a coup against the AKP government through a suspected secularist clandestine "Ergenekon" organization.    

Furthermore, Taraf demonized anti-government politicians, officers, journalists and citizens as "coup plotters" and "being part of the deep state" in Turkey. The police soon began arresting more people who opposed Erdoğan and the AKP. A growing number of arrests included critics of Fethullah Gülen. Gülen network infiltrated the police and the courts, and in alliance with the AKP, they managed to arrest and convict their enemies—ironically, by accusing them of being in a terrorist organization.

Many opponent journalists were prisoned while Taraf daily reported that such journalists had not been arrested for their jobs but for plotting against the government. 

A headline, 7 March 2011: 'They were not arrested for journalism'

Three other defendants were also sentenced to life for trying to abolish the constitution and overthrow the government. 

The court handed down life sentences to Yakup Şimşek, a former marketing manager for the Gülen-affiliated Zaman newspaper, Zaman layout designer Fevzi Yazıcı, and police academy instructor Şükrü Tuğrul Özsengül.


Kemal Okuyan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), wrote as early as December 2012 that the trials of "Ergenekon" and following trials were not legitimate. The TKP and Okuyan underlined in those days that the AKP-Gülen-led operation would further strengthen the counterrevolutionary mechanisms, let alone liquidate the deep state in Turkey.

"Ergenekon was an extremely complicated operation. It was prepared and implemented as one of the most important instruments of elaborate activities to put an end to the First Republic," Okuyan noted in 2012, adding that the aim of the Ergenekon operation was to destroy some social-political alliances of the First Republican establishment against that of the AKP-Gülen alliance.