Altan found guilty of “insulting the president” and “terrorism propaganda,” handed down 5 years and 11 months in prison for 2016 column

An Istanbul court on February 28 found Ahmet Altan guilty of both “insulting the president” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization (PKK)” and handed down the renowned journalist and novelist a total of five years and 11 months in prison for a column he wrote in 2016.

The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced Altan to three years in prison for “terrorism propaganda” and to an additional two years and 11 months for “insulting the president” in what was the third and final hearing of the trial, based on his column “Ezip geçmek” (Beating all hollow).

The panel did not grant a reduction in the sentence in view of Altan’s “behavior during the trial.”

The verdict comes less than two weeks after Altan was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment by the same court, although by a different panel, for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” at the end of a high-profile trial, igniting a global wave of condemnation from individuals and NGOs defending freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

The very same column by Altan, for which he received a six-year sentence on February 28, was also among evidence against the journalist in the case file for the “coup” trial.

P24 monitored the February 28 hearing in the courtroom at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. Altan attended the hearing via the courtroom video conferencing system SEGBİS from the Silivri Prison, where he has been incarcerated since September 2016.

In his final defense statement on Wednesday, Altan defended his remarks in his column. “I am being tried for calling 13- and 14-year-old Kurdish kids

who clashed with the military in the Sur neighborhood ‘kids’. Instead of putting me on trial, you should be asking yourselves why kids are being killed in this country,” Altan told the court. “Calling kids what they are is not a crime, but turning a country into one where kids are being killed is,” Altan added.

Noting that he was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for “being a fundamentalist coup plotter” and accused of “being a Marxist terrorist” on account of the same column, Altan said: “You have different sets of criteria for the political authority and for dissidents. This is in violation of the Constitution, the law and against the rule of law.”

The full text of Altan’s defense statement, in Turkish, can be found here.

Addressing the court following Altan, his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu said the elements of insult and propaganda did not exist in the column, adding that two different verdicts cannot be issued for a single column.

Speaking after Çalıkuşu, lawyer Ergin Cinmen also highlighted the principle that stipulates that a single act should not be subjected to multiple criminal procedures. Cinmen also added that the case file included no evidence. “The case file merely includes [as evidence] one article, which is the exercising of expressing one’s opinion,” Cinmen said.

Following the defense statements, the court rendered its verdict, in which it initially sentenced Altan to two years in prison for “conducting propaganda for PKK,” and ruled to increase the sentence by half, to three years, on grounds that the crime was committed through the press. Similarly, as to the “insulting the president” charge, the court initially sentenced Altan to two years and six months in prison, increasing the sentence to two years and 11 months on the same grounds.

The full indictment against Altan, in Turkish, can be found here.