Turkey Releases Journalist From Prison in 2016 Coup Case
A Turkish appeals court released journalist Ahmet Altan from prison on Wednesday after it reduced his 10-year jail sentence for allegedly taking part in a 2016 failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Altan, the editor-in-chief of Taraf newspaper, was one of the dozens of journalists arrested as Turkey shut down media outlets owned or supported by a religious group led by Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish courts say masterminded the putsch attempt.
Altan’s case was one of many closely watched by European Union officials, who say the large number of journalists in Turkish jails are a sign of the general deterioration in democracy under Erdogan’s leadership. The bloc and human rights organizations have called on Turkey to free members of press while Erdogan’s government say those in jail aren’t incarcerated for their journalism.
Altan was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison. That verdict was later canceled and Altan was sentenced to more than 10 years. The story of how Altan went from the editorial chief of a top Turkish newspaper favored by members of the government to a coup suspect highlights the shifting political alliances over the past decade.
Erdogan fell out with Gulen over a series of rows in 2012 and 2013, and went into a full-on battle with the movement after the failed coup.
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Altan’s critics accuse him and others at Taraf newspaper of spreading misinformation before courts arrested hundreds of Turkish generals and admirals on fabricated charges in cases starting from 2007. The so-called Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases against members of the Turkish military were spearheaded by Gulen, a former imam who once wielded enormous influence thanks to his ideological alliance with the ruling AK Party and through his followers within the Turkish state.