Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan handed additional six years to life prison sentence | News | DW | 28.02.2018
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Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan handed additional six years to life prison sentence

A Turkish court has handed jailed journalist Ahmet Altan an additional six-year sentence for an article he wrote on the PKK. Altan already received a life sentence this month for his suspected role in the attempted coup.

Prominent Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan was found guilty on Wednesday of two separate charges related to an article he wrote on Turkey's conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Altan, age 67, was handed an additional five-year-11-month sentence for portraying the actions of the PKK as innocent. In the article, published on the Haberdar news website, he had written of "children" digging trenches to fight Turkish soldiers.

Read more: How we can help persecuted intellectuals in Turkey

The Istanbul court also ruled that Altan had insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the article, which is considered a crime in Turkey.

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Journalists on trial in Turkey

The latest verdict comes just two weeks after Altan, his brother Mehmet and four other journalists were handed life sentences for allegedly aiding plotters ahead of the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan. In Altan and his brother's case, the court found that the two had given coded messages while on a television talk show the day before the coup.

All six men deny the charges.

The life sentences handed by the court prompted an international outcry from several rights group as well as the United Nations. Under Erdogan's post-coup crackdown, some 50,00 people have been jailed, including dozens of writers and journalists. Over 150,000 civil servants have been fired or suspended from their jobs.

In January, Altan was freed by Turkey's Constitutional Court on the grounds that his rights had been violated. However, in a move that outraged supporters, the ruling was not implemented by the criminal courts. 

Read more: Press freedom index: Turkey remains world's worst jailer of journalists

In a letter published in Wednesday's edition of The New York Times, Altan sought to play up the absurdity and tribulation of his case.

"We will never be pardoned and we will die in a prison cell," the journalist wrote. "I am going to Hades. I walk into the darkness like a god who wrote his own destiny."

Nobel laureates call for Altan's release in open letter

After Wednesday's verdict, Britain's Guardian newspaper published an open letter on behalf of 38 Nobel laureates — including peace prize winners Svetlana Alexievich and JM Coetzee — calling for the men's immediate release and Turkey's return to rule of law.

"All these writers had spent their careers opposing coups and militarism of any sort, and yet were charged with aiding an armed terrorist organization and staging a coup," the letter said.

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dm/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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