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Turkish court overturns life sentences against three journalists

Mehmet Altan acquitted of links to Fethullah Gulen's movement over lack of evidence
Turkish journalist Mehmet Altan with wife Umit Altan outside Silivri prison near Istanbul after he was freed in 2018 following two years in jail (AFP)

Turkey's high court has acquitted journalist Mehmet Altan of alleged links to the network of US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, while also overturning the life sentences for his brother Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, two other defendants on the same case.

Gulen's network is accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

On Friday, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ankara cleared Ahmet Altan and Ilicak of charges related to violating the constitution, Anadolu Agency reported. The court maintained, however, that the pair had aided the Gulen network.

The Court of Appeals acquitted Mehmet Altan of links to the Gulen network on the basis that there was not sufficient and convincing evidence.

Mehmet Altan had already been released from jail in June 2018.

The Altan brothers, both high profile and long-established writers in Turkey, were arrested in September 2016, two months after the failed coup attempt that saw hundreds killed. Nazli Ilicak, a former MP, was arrested in July 2016.

Ahmet Altan published a book earlier this year that was written in prison entitled, I Will Never See the World Again, about his fears that he would never leave jail.

"It was a sentence that put an unbridgeable distance between itself and reality," he wrote of his original life sentence.

"It ignored reality, ridiculed it, even as I was being transformed into a pitiful bug who could not even open the door of the car he was in."

The Istanbul-based P24 press freedom group, which focuses on Turkey, said there were 144 journalists in jail in the country as of 28 June.

Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.