Turkey demands life sentences for journalists in coup bid trial

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Turkish prosecutors have demanded life sentences for three veteran Turkish journalists on trial over accusations of links to the 2016 failed coup, in a case that has raised new concerns for freedom of speech in the country.

The brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and prominent commentator Nazli Ilicak are charged with violating the Turkish constitution in the trial, which began in June at the Istanbul criminal court.

They are accused of links to US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara says masterminded the failed bid to oust Erdogan on July 15 last year.

Gulen denies ties to the incident, which left 249 people dead, not including the plotters.

The journalists have been charged with having foreknowledge of the coup bid and being involved in the sending of subliminal messages it was to happen, including an October 2015 advertising campaign by the now defunct pro-Gulen newspaper Zaman.

All three reject the charges.

Ilicak, 73, was one of the very first journalists arrested in July after the coup bid. Briefly an MP from 1999, she wrote for several dailies including Hurriyet.

Ahmet Altan, 67, is a novelist and journalist who has written for some of Turkey’s leading dailies including Hurriyet and Milliyet as well as founding the now closed opposition daily Taraf.

Mehmet Altan, 64, has written books on Turkish politics. Both were detained in early September although Ahmet Altan was released in mid-September before rapidly being re-arrested.

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