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Top court annuls aggravated life sentence given to ex-media executive, 3 others

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Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has reversed aggravated life sentences handed down to four people including a former media executive on conviction of attempting to destroy the constitutional order due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

The 3rd criminal chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has completed its review of appeals filed by the defendants including Hidayet Karaca, former chief executive of the now-defunct Samanyolu Media Group, as part of a case that was launched against 75 people accused of having links to the faith-based movement inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

The Turkish government labels the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization and accuses it of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In June 2018 the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court handed down aggravated life sentences to Karaca; former lawmaker İlhan İşbilen; Fethullah Gülen’s cousin Kazım Avcı; and Alaeddin Kaya, former owner of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order.

Their aggravated life sentences were upheld by a regional appeals court in November 2020. The defendants subsequently filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court of Appeals in a ruling dated June 28 decided to annul the aggravated life sentences given to the four suspects on the grounds that they were in jail at the time of the coup attempt and were not involved in it. Yet the top court suggested the maximum punishment for the defendants on charges of terrorist organization membership due to their links to the Gülen movement.

The court also annulled the prison sentences given to the four defendants on charges of fraud and money laundering. Karaca and the other three defendants will be retried at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, where they will face charges of terrorist organization membership.

Karaca has been held in the notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul since Dec. 14, 2014. He has been given prison sentences of various lengths in several trials, which are seen as politically motivated due to his work at a Gülen-linked media outlet.

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