A Turkish court has ordered the release of two prominent journalists, after a previous life sentence for terror-related charges over alleged links to the 2016 failed coup was overturned.
Ahmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, both respected intellectuals in Turkey, were previously sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2018 on charges of aiding the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and attempting to overthrow the government.
In Monday’s ruling, an Istanbul court convicted Altan and Ilicak of a lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist organisation,” and sentenced Altan to 10.5 years and Ilicak to nearly nine years in prison.
However, it ordered their release under supervision for having already served more than three years in prison.
The court also acquitted journalist Mehmet Altan, Ahmet’s brother, for lack of evidence. He had already been released from prison last year.
The case has garnered widespread criticism from human rights groups and Western governments, already worried over the scale of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown on alleged supporters of the Gulen movement. Ankara has accused Gulen of masterminding the bloody coup attempt in July 2016.
Since the failed putsch, more than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from the public sector and military.
The crackdown has left dozens of journalists imprisoned or harassed with legal challenges, with the government intimidating or shutting down critical media.
Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkey at 157 out of 180 countries in its latest World Press Freedom Index.