An enforced verdict of life imprisonment is no joke. After Turkey gave up the death penalty, the most primitive of all revanchist penalties, the Turkish legislature introduced the enforced life term as a substitute to capital punishment. That is, it is a substitute for the death penalty.
In a country where there are still some people rehashing the debate on the need for the death penalty, at least for some heinous crimes such as pedophilia or sexual assault crimes, what a horrific situation it might be to hear a prosecutor demanding an enforced life term for a journalist, an academic or a writer might be better understood.
If, however, a court delivers such a sentence against journalists, writers and intellectuals it might be rather difficult to accommodate such a terrific reality.
Obviously, neither journalists, nor academics or writers can be above the law in any country that claims to adhere to the principle of the supremacy of law, accountability and equality of all in front of the law. If they commit crimes, intentionally aid and abet criminals or become members of criminal gangs, of course they should account for the offense they have committed in front of the law.
Yet, it is rather difficult to reconcile with the notion of law and justice if some journalists are sentenced to an enforced life term upon being convicted of aiding an Islamist terrorist gang to plot a failed military coup in July 2016, even though they might not be members of it.
The Istanbul regional appeals court upheld the sentences of enforced life term delivered in February by a lower court on conviction of aiding plotters and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order against brothers Mehmet and Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül.
Were they guilty or not is of course something else but such a heavy sentence against journalists and writers who were accused of only making “subliminal” contributions to the failed coup cannot be easily reconciled with the principle of proportionality.
I am afraid the heavy trauma Turkey went through because of the coup led to such a sentencing that might be considered disproportionate in European standards.
Interesting enough, on the very same day due to concerns over human rights, freedom of expression, press freedom and rule of law in Turkey, the European Parliament voted to cut 70 million euros of financial support to the country.
As sad as the cut of pre-accession financial support was—the first ever such move by the European Parliament—it was passed. Some 544 European parliamentarians voted in favor it, while only 28 were against it and 74 abstained.
Of course, Ankara was furious with the development. It considered it the success of the advance of the far right in the European political spectrum. The anti-Turkish bias was blamed as well.
“The so-called pre-accession funds are intended to help Turkey as it works toward becoming a member of the bloc, but were cut as conditions to improve the rule of law were not met,” according to a statement from the European Parliament could not be heard or even if it was heard, was not understood at all.
Was Ankara not aware the aid was to be paid out on the condition that it made improvements with regards to freedom of expression, press freedom, rule of law, democracy and of course, human rights?
Did the European Commission not warn back in April that Turkey was significantly deficient in the rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom?
Turkey must have some better alternative actions other than banning the Saturday Mothers from gathering at an Istanbul square, banishing critics or delivering sentences that might have a chilling effect on opponents.