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Turkish court rules Altan brothers, Ilıcak, others to remain in jail

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An İstanbul court on Monday ruled that journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and Fevzi Yazıcı, who were arrested in September 2016 on charges of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016, are to remain in pretrial detention, the T24 news website reported.

The İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court scheduled the next hearing for Dec. 11 while refusing an application by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Dursun Çiçek to take part in the case in which 17 people are being tried.

Four of the six arrested suspects – Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek, Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül — appeared in court, while the Altan brothers attended the hearing via video conference.

During the morning hearing, the judge ordered the lawyers for the Altan brothers to leave the courtroom after a quarrel, on the grounds that they were speaking without permission.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the putsch.

The prosecutor accuses the suspects of being linked to the Gülen movement and committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being a member of it.

The court in September ruled to separate the files of former Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş and journalists Tuncay Opçin and Emre Uslu from the case.

During the hearing on Monday all the suspects demanded their release.

The judges also refused demands by lawyers of the journalists that they recuse themselves from the case.

Yazıcı, a Turkish member of the US-based international Society for News Design (SND), in October sent a letter to the SND community through his wife, who recently visited him in prison. The designer’s letter was emotional, underlining his harshly restricted living conditions in prison for a crime he denies having anything to do with.

The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ahmet Altan is a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the now-closed-down Taraf newspaper. The daily ran headlines that led to the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot investigations, which helped the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government subdue the role of the military in Turkish politics. After quitting Taraf, Altan resumed writing harsh critical columns against the increasingly authoritarian AKP government and President Erdoğan.

Mehmet Altan, an economics professor at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissidents. He was recently targeted by pro-Erdoğan columnist Hilal Kaplan for not being dismissed from his position at the university at a time when hundreds of academics and teachers were being expelled from their posts as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt.

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