Altan was sent back to prison on 13 November following his rearrest Tuesday night based on a warrant issued by the 27th High Criminal Court, which accepted the prosecutor’s objection to his release pending appeal last week
Novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan was sent back to prison on 13 November 2019, only one week after his release pending appeal. Altan was rearrested on 12 November after the prosecution objected to his release last week at the end of the retrial of the “coup” case against him and his five co-defendants.
Altan, who was released from prison late on 4 November after spending more than three years in detention on remand as part of the case, was taken to the Istanbul Police Department on Tuesday night. Altan remained in custody until Wednesday, when he was taken to the Istanbul Courthouse and appeared before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which ordered his rearrest.
Last week, at the end of the second hearing of the retrial of Altans case, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted Altan and four of his co-defendants in the case of terrorism-related charges. Ahmet Altan was handed down a prison sentence of 10 years and 6 months on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” Taking into consideration the time he spent in pre-trial detention, the court had ruled to release Altan under an international travel ban.
Altan was rearrested at around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night at his Istanbul home, several hours after the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, the next court of first instance tasked with reviewing the 26th High Criminal Court’s decisions, issued a warrant for Altan as it revoked the 26th High Criminal Court’s order for Altan’s release based on an objection by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The 27th High Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Altan on the grounds that “the judicial control measures imposed on him” remained “insufficient considering flight risk … the intensity of his actions, the duration of the prison sentence he was given, the time he spent in detention on remand … as well as his conduct following his release.”
The court rendered its ruling on Tuesday afternoon. News of the arrest warrant against Altan was made public by the pro-government Sabah daily and the state-run Anadolu news agency.
News of Altan’s rearrest triggered an immediate wave of reaction from around the world, with David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, calling Altan’s rearrest “truly shocking.” “Ahmet Altan released by court order in Turkey. Erdoğan objects. Now Altan faces imminent re-arrest. How to describe other than as an abuse of law, power, process,” Kaye wrote on Twitter.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic tweeted: “Like many others, I am appalled by the senseless cruelty that Turkish courts displayed once more by detaining Ahmet Altan again. He should immediately be released.”
Ahmet Altan was first arrested on 10 September 2016 along with his brother, Mehmet Altan, over alleged links with the Gülen network. The indictment claimed that all seven defendants in the original trial had prior knowledge of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016, which the government says was masterminded by the Fethullah Gülen network.
In February 2018, at the end of the Altans trial, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced six defendants in the case, including Ahmet Altan and his brother, Mehmet Altan, to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
The retrial of the case, which concluded on 4 November 2019, followed on the heels of a Supreme Court of Appeals judgment in July 2019 that overturned the aggravated life imprisonment sentences and ruled that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should instead be charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” Mehmet Altan should be acquitted, and their three co-defendants should be charged with “membership in a terrorist group.”