Lawyers call on the ministry to follow implementation of the ECtHR ruling on Mehmet Altan’s case

Lawyers for the imprisoned academic and columnist Mehmet Altan applied to the Justice Ministry for a third time on 30 March, demanding that a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment that found Altan’s rights had been violated be translated into Turkish and communicated to the authorities that are responsible for remedying the violations.

The petition, signed by lawyers Ergin Cinmen and Figen Çalıkuşu, noted that the Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Department was legally tasked with taking the measures necessary for implementation of the ECtHR judgments and overseeing the process of eliminating the violations identified by the Strasbourg court. This, the lawyers said, requires that the judgment published in English and in French on the ECtHR website be translated into Turkish and communicated to the judicial authorities that are responsible for eliminating the said violations.

“The facts cited in the petition have led to serious human rights violations. Both the Constitutional Court Plenary and the ECtHR rulings have established that there is no legal ground justifying the detention of our client for over a year and the aggravated life sentence he was given without a valid piece of evidence,” said the lawyers.

Altan, who was on trial along with his brother, Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak and others, was given an aggravated life sentence on 16 February, at the end of his trial at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.” The court also ruled for continuation of Altan’s detention awaiting the appeal process.

In its judgments released on 20 March on applications filed on behalf of Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, a 74-year-old former columnist for the shuttered Zaman newspaper who had been released but placed under house arrest on 17 March, the ECtHR found that there had been a violation of personal liberty and security under Article 5/1 of the European Convention of Human Rights and of freedom of expression under Article 10.

Altan’s lawyers applied to the Justice Ministry hours after the ECtHR judgment, requesting the translation of the text of the judgment and its communication to the relevant authorities. The lawyers also applied to the trial court on the same day requesting Altan’s release on the basis of the ECtHR decision.

But the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court refused to rule on the request on 28 March, saying the case is disposed. The court also said that no ECtHR judgment has been communicated to it through official channels. The lawyers then submitted a second petition to the Justice Ministry, repeating their requests.

Copies of the two previous petitions and of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court decision of 28 March were attached to the latest petition to the Justice Ministry.

Before the European Court of Human Rights rulings, the Constitutional Court had similarly found on 11 January that Altan and Alpay’s rights to individual liberty and security and the freedom of expression had been violated as a result of their pre-trial detention. But the lower courts refused to implement the Constitutional Court rulings, saying the top court overstepped its jurisdiction by examining evidence included in the case file.