Free speech and human rights organisations call for Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and other journalists to be released
Ahead of the second hearing in the retrial of Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and four other journalists and media workers, ARTICLE 19 and 16 free speech and human rights organisations call for all detained defendants to be released and for the charges to be dropped. We believe that the charges against Altan and the other defendants 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.
Altan and Ilıcak have been in pre-trial detention for over three years on bogus charges. They were initially charged with sedition and are now being re-tried on terrorism charges following a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The final prosecutor’s opinion has been published ahead of the hearing on Monday 4 November, revealing that the prosecutor will ask for the judge to sentence significantly above the minimum required sentence for these offences. If the judge rules in line with the Prosecutor’s opinion, this will mean that the defendants will remain in detention during the appeals process which could take many more months. The on-going violation of their rights is a damning indictment of the state of Turkey’s judicial system, which has been placed under immense political pressure since the failed coup of July 2016.
We have serious concerns regarding the panel of judges overseeing this retrial. It will be presided over by the same judge who oversaw the first trial, which involved several violations of the right to a fair trial and according to the Bar Human Rights Committee, “gave the appearance of a show trial”. The same panel of judges also previously refused to implement the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights rulings that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated by his pre-trial detention, sparking off a constitutional crisis.