Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Ahmet Altan acquitted in lawsuit filed by former chief of general staff

Ahmet Altan acquitted in lawsuit filed by former chief of general staff

Another lawsuit against Ahmet Altan, filed by former Sakarya Chief of Police Faruk Ünsal, adjourned until June

Two separate lawsuits where imprisoned journalist-novelist Ahmet Altan is accused of “insult,” “attempting to influence trial process,” and “violation of confidentiality” were heard on 26 April 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Ahmet Altan, who has been imprisoned in the Silivri Prison since September 2016, addressed the court via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS for the hearings. His lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu was in attendance in the courtroom.

The court first heard the lawsuit filed by Ünsal, where Altan faces charges of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation”and “attempting to influence courtroom proceedings” for his article titled “Mafyanın dışında kim kaldı” (Who is left other than the mafia), published in 2009 in the now defunct Taraf daily.

Altan and his lawyer Çalıkuşu told the court they reiterated the written statement previously submitted to the court.

Announcing its interim ruling, taking into consideration the amount of penalty estimated for the charge of “attempting to influence courtroom proceedings,” the judge said the case would be dismissed on the condition that a judicial fine worth a total of 1.061 TL is paid in advance within 10 days.

The court postponed the trial until 25 June.

The court later heard the second lawsuit, which was filed by İlker Başbuğ, the former chief of General Staff. Altan was charged with “insult” in the case, which concerned an article Altan wrote in 2010 in the shuttered Taraf daily.

Making his defense statement via SEGBİS, Altan described the case as “a zombie case” due to its reappearance after being previously put on hold. The case was reopened after Altan had been convicted for “insulting the president” in a separate case last year.

In his defense statement, Altan reminded the court that when he wrote the article in question in 2010 the military tutelage regime was still in force and Başbuğ, the leader of that regime at the time on account of holding the highest military office in Turkey, overstepped his mandate by insulting the elected members of the parliament. Altan said he used his right and duty as a writer to criticize Başbuğ’s actions, not only when the then top-general insulted the MPs but also when he defended the [criminal] acts of a colonel who was on trial for being a member of the covert counter-guerilla group JITEM.

Announcing its verdict after hearing Altan’s defense statement, the court acquitted Altan of the charge, ruling that the legal elements of the crime were not present.