Turkey: 6 journalists sentenced to life over failed coup

A 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. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2018
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Turkey: 6 journalists sentenced to life over failed coup

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.


Popular hashtags take sides on Egypt president’s leadership

Updated 23 June 2018
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Popular hashtags take sides on Egypt president’s leadership

  • Tens of thousands of Egyptians have set social media alight with tweets on opposing hashtags, one calling on President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to resign and another praising his leadership
  • Frustration deepened last week after Egypt’s national soccer team, competing in the World Cup for the first time since 1990, failed to advance after only two matches

CAIRO: Tens of thousands of Egyptians have set social media alight with tweets on opposing hashtags, one calling on President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to resign and another praising his leadership.
The hashtags surfaced after a recent wave of steep price hikes for fuel, drinking water and electricity was introduced by the government as part of austerity measures designed to overhaul the economy, which is still recovering from a costly 2011 popular uprising. The hikes were announced as Egyptians were celebrating Eid Al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a move believed to be designed to minimize chances of protests.
Frustration deepened last week after Egypt’s national soccer team, competing in the World Cup for the first time since 1990, failed to advance after only two matches. The hashtags have picked up since, making it Twitter’s top trending list in Egypt for days. But by Saturday, the one calling on El-Sisi to leave office carried over 279,000 tweets. The opposing hashtag had a much lower figure of more than 48,000.
“No freedom, no justice, no education, no country, no humanity ... it’s the time to go away!!!,” one user posted on the hashtag asking El-Sisi to leave, which is translated from Arabic as #El-Sisi_leave.
Meanwhile, other users flooded the hashtag praising the president (#myleaderisEl-Sisiandproud) with flattery and adulation.
Economic reforms and tough austerity measures started shortly after El-Sisi took office in 2014 but have been accelerating recently and have hit poor and middle-class Egyptians especially hard. El-Sisi, who led the 2013 military overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist President Muhammad Mursi, has urged Egyptians to be patient as the reforms take effect.
“If we want to become a real nation, we must suffer pain and endure hardships,” El-Sisi said. “We have to pay the price together.”
Ahead of the recent price hikes, Egyptian authorities arrested several critics, including a well-known blogger and a socialist activist. The arrests, which came after El-Sisi’s re-election in a March vote in which he faced no serious challengers, are part of a wider crackdown on dissent since Mursi’s overthrow amid mass protests against his yearlong rule. Thousands of people have been jailed, including several prominent secular activists who defied the protest ban.
Those measures have virtually eliminated street activism in Egypt, where the 2011 uprising ended former President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule. The government has also cracked down on online organizing by blocking hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and rights groups.