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Turkey’s Appeals Court Acquits Journalist Mehmet Altan

Turkey’s top appeals court on Friday ordered the acquittal of journalist Mehmet Altan over links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, state media reported.

The Court of Cassation quashed his life sentence for violating the constitution, state news agency Anadolu reported, due to insufficient evidence.

Mehmet, 66, had been freed in June 2018 after nearly two years in jail after the Constitutional Court earlier that year ruled he should be released.

Mehmet Altan was an economics professor and columnist for top newspapers at the time of his arrest in September 2016.

The Court of Cassation also overturned life sentences for Nazli Ilicak and Ahmet Altan jailed over links to the attempted overthrow, Anadolu said.

The court said they should not have been tried for violating the constitution, but should face the charge of “deliberately and willingly helping” the Gulen movement.

They were given aggravated life sentences last year which carry harsher conditions after being accused of ties to the outlawed group of U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara claims Gulen ordered the coup bid but he strongly denies the charges.

Ilicak, 74, is a former MP who wrote for leading dailies including Hurriyet, while Ahmet Altan, 69, is a novelist who founded the now-closed opposition daily Taraf.

They were accused of appearing together on a pro-Gulen channel just before the attempted coup, saying an overthrow of the government was imminent.

In May, the Constitutional Court rejected the appeals of Ilicak and Ahmet Altan, saying their rights had not been violated.

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are 140 jailed journalists in Turkey, most of whom were held in the mass crackdown after the coup bid.

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

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