The case was put on hold after Cihaner withdrew his complaint but was relaunched after a sentence Altan had been given in another case was upheld in March 2018

A trial in which imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan is accused of “insulting a public official” got under way on 21 May 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The case was originally launched in 2010 upon a complaint by former public prosecutor İlhan Cihaner, currently a lawmaker with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The case concerns an article Altan penned in 2010, titled “Büyük Savaş Başladı” (The great battle has begun), in which he mentioned a leaked phone conversation between two justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals about Cihaner’s release from prison, a subject that had previously been covered by news media.

Cihaner later withdrew his complaint, and the case was put on hold. However, it was recently relaunched after Altan’s conviction in a case where he was accused of “insulting the president” was upheld by an appellate court in March 2018.

P24 monitored the hearing, during which Altan addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the courtroom video-conferencing network SEGBİS.

Submitting Altan’s written defense statement to the court during the hearing, his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu said they would make their final defense statement at a later stage. Çalıkuşu also submitted to the court a copy of Cihaner’s motion for the withdrawal of his complaint.

In his defense statement, Altan told the court that the prosecution was trying to cover up a scandal in the judiciary that took place 10 years ago by attempting to incriminate him.

Altan said: “I am standing trial on such absurd allegations that it feels as though public prosecutors are in a race as to who will come up with the strangest indictment. … Cihaner, a former prosecutor, says, ‘There is no insult, I withdraw my complaint,’ however, this prosecutor insists on the charge.”

Altan added: “Honorable judge, please don’t let criticism become a prohibited act by labeling it as ‘insult.’ Let the state and the judiciary breathe through criticism.”

Addressing the court once again after Altan’s statement, lawyer Çalıkuşu pointed out that Altan did not mention the name or the title of Ersan Ülker, the former president of the 11th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, who requested to join the case as the injured party. Çalıkuşu asked the court to consider revoking a previous interim decision to accept Ülker’s request, which the court rejected.

In its interim decision, the court rejected Çalıkuşu’s request for the withdrawal of the previous interim ruling. The court also decided to wait for the response from the Gölbaşı Criminal Court of First Instance concerning Cihaner and adjourned the trial until 17 September 2019.

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