Prisoner of Conscience: Nazli Ilicak
Nazli Ilicak, a veteran Turkish journalist, writer, and politician, has been behind bars since 2016. Along with Ahmet Altan and other Turkish journalists, they were accused of aiding the movement of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric, living in exile in the United States. His organization as deemed by the government as a terrorist group and the organizer of the 2016 failed coup.
At the time, Ilicak was the head of the Özgür Düşünce newspaper. The Turkish government, however, shut down the publication in the summer of 2016, as part of its efforts to crackdown on media that it regards as affiliated with the Gulenist movement.
Ilicak is a prominent Turkish journalist with decades-long experience in print, television, and publishing. Besides journalism, she also pursued a career in politics and was elected as a Member of Parliament in the late 90s from the Virtue Party. Later, however, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ordered the party to be dissolved, stating that the party’s activities were contrary to the principle of secularism. As a result, Ilicak lost her seat and was banned from founding or being an officer of another political party for five years. The European Court of Human Rights, however, decided that this was a violation of her right to freedom of expression.
In February 2018, along with Altan, she was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. A number of international human rights organizations condemned the verdict, citing violations of their right to a fair trial and access to proper defense.
In July 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned her life sentence and cleared her of charges related to violating the constitution. However, the judges left her in jail, as she was facing other charges.
Ahead of a second hearing in November more than a dozen advocacy and media organizations called for the immediate release of Ilicak, Altan, and other jailed journalists, stating that the charges against them “are politically motivated and the case should never have gone to trial.” “We believe that the new charges are also bogus, as no credible evidence has been presented linking the defendants to terrorism,” their statement reads.
A Turkish court sentenced her to eight years and nine months in prison but decided to release her, as she - had already spent three years in prison. Under the conditions of her release Ilicak has to regularly report to a local police station and is banned to leave the country.
“I welcome this long-awaited decision to release the Altan brothers and Nazli Ilicak from prison,” said Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in a statement. “I hope that this ruling will trigger change when it comes to the situation of journalists in the country and the unjustified criminal prosecution faced by many of them.”