Chief judge objects as Altan brothers give defense statements on 2nd day of trial; hearing expected to produce verdict
Ahmet Altan, well-known novelist and journalist, and former editor in chief of the shuttered Taraf daily, and his brother, well-known professor of economics and columnist Mehmet Altan, presented their final defense statements on the second day of the fifth hearing in a case where they are on trial at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The Altan brothers and four other co-defendants in the case, including veteran journalist-columnist Nazlı Ilıcak, and Fevzi Yazıcı, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, all of whom are in pretrial detention, are facing aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through use of force and violence.”
Followed at the courtroom by P24 as well as representatives from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Article 19, PEN International and Norwegian PEN, the hearing took place in the courtroom on the Silivri Prison premises after the chief judge ruled on the first day of the hearing on February 12 that the rest of the sessions would be held in Silivri. The chief judge’s decision came as the court was actually expected to hear Ahmet Altan’s final defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS on Monday, but the chief judge abruptly ended the session after expelling two attorneys representing the defendants from the courtroom when they requested the Constitutional Court ruling of January 11, 2018 concerning Mehmet Altan to be read out before the court for the records.
The second day’s session began with the final defense statement of Ahmet Altan, whose statement was interrupted several times by the chief judge, warning Altan concerning the contents of his statement. The judge warned Altan that his microphone would be switched off in case he “continued to divert from the prosecutor’s final opinion” and went on to “criticize the president.”
In the face of the warning by the chief judge, Altan had to skip two pages from the latter part of his defense statement.
Following the completion of Ahmet Altan’s defense, Mehmet Altan began reading his final defense statement.
Like his brother, Mehmet Altan too was interrupted several times by the chief judge during his statement.
Beginning his statement by recalling the Constitutional Court ruling concerning his individual application, Mehmet Altan said the top court’s ruling had held that the evidence against him were not sufficient for even his detention, but that he was “still being forcibly kept in prison” because two members of the trial court violated Article 153 of the Constitution, which stipulates that Constitutional Court rulings are binding.
Altan said: “Two members on the panel of this court, despite a warning by the third member, violated Article 153 of the Constitution; instead of giving me back my liberty that I have been deprived of, they chose to insist on the violation and committing a Constitutional crime.”
The chief judge interrupted Altan at this point and warned him that he should only touch upon the accusations leveled against him, after which Altan skipped some parts of his defense statement.
After Mehmet Altan completed reading his defense statement, one of the judges on the panel asked him whether he has ever met Fethullah Gülen, to which Altan replied that he had met with Gülen as part of a group of around 10 people, which also included the journalists Ardan Zentürk and Mahmut Övür.