ISTANBUL: A court on Friday sentenced six journalists and media employees accused of involvement in Turkey’s 2016 failed coup attempt to life prison terms, the country’s state-run news agency reported.
Anadolu Agency said the court in Silivri, on the outskirts of Istanbul, convicted prominent journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak and three other media sector employees of crimes against the state. One other defendant was acquitted.
They are the first journalists to be convicted over the July 15, 2016, coup, which Turkey says was orchestrated by a network led by US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The cleric denies involvement. Their conviction came as another court in the same courthouse ordered German journalist Deniz Yucel — detained in Turkey for a year — released from jail pending trial.
The defendants, who are expected to appeal the ruling, were charged with attempts against Turkey’s constitution and membership in a terror organization. The group were employed by Gulen-linked media organizations but have rejected the charges, denying any involvement in the coup attempt.
More than 38,000 people, including journalists, are in jail as part of an ongoing large-scale government crackdown on Gulen’s network of followers, launched in the aftermath of the coup. More than 110,000 have been sacked from government jobs.
Ahmet Altan, a former newspaper chief editor, and his brother, Mehmet Altan — a columnist and academic — were accused of appearing together with veteran journalist Ilicak in a political debate show on a Gulen-linked television channel. Prosecutors deemed that their comments indicated they had prior knowledge of the coup attempt.
In January, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay — another journalist being tried separately — should be released pending the outcome of their trials. But a lower court refused to implement the decision, raising concerns about rule of law in the country.
"There's no way a week ago that I would have, because I would have thought it would have been deemed inappropriate, not right, that I was insulting the Muslim community," Gillies said.
"I'll be honest - I did angst over it today whether I should wear it, because I didn't want to be inappropriate or offend the Muslim community. But I know that they are so welcoming and accepting of it, and I know that a lot of women will wear it today because it just shows that we are united - the solidarity is there, the love and support is there."
Elsewhere, women across the country wore hijabs on an emotional day when the shocked nation came together to remember those killed.
Rafaela Stoakes, a 32-year-old mother of two, said wearing the Islamic head covering gave her an insight into what it means to stand out and feel part of the minority.
On Friday morning she covered all but a few locks of her dark chestnut-coloured hair in a loose red and white scarf, crossed neatly beneath her chin and tucked into a black hiking jacket.
She was one of many women embracing #HeadScarfforHarmony, to make a stand against the hate espoused by the Australian man who killed dozens of worshippers.
Headscarves were also worn as a mark of respect by policewomen and non-Muslim volunteers directing the crowds around the site in Christchurch holding communal prayers on Friday.
Many were wearing a headscarf for the first time.
"It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning," Stoakes told AFP.
"There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones," she said.
"I did feel a sense of pride to honour my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one."
"It must take a lot of courage to do this on a daily basis."
The gesture caught on nationwide -- in offices, schools and on the streets -- as well as at the ceremonies held in Christchurch to mark one week since the killings at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.
Women flooded Twitter, Facebook and other social media -- which played a key role in allowing the gunman to spread his message -- with their images.
Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.
"If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I've got lectures and I can't really skip them," she told AFP, using a Maori language term for extended family.
"Obviously this is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch, but it's also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay," she added.
"As New Zealanders, we have to make a really strong stand."
Although the headscarf has been the subject of contentious debate over gender rights in the Islamic world, for Stoakes the day has been a lesson in how pious Muslim women often do not have the option to melt away into the background when they feel vulnerable.
"We can nod and pretend to agree with people who we are afraid of, or plead ignorance if we feel in danger of confrontation," she said.
"But a Muslim is just right out there. Like a bullseye. Their hijabs and clothing speak before they do."