The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court says the Constitutional Court overstepped its jurisdiction
The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, which oversees the trial of imprisoned journalist Mehmet Altan in a coup case, insisted on January 19 on a previous decision not to release Altan despite a Constitutional Court decision that his rights were violated as a result of his pre-trial detention.In an earlier decision issued hours after the Constitutional Court decision on January 11, the court had rejected a request from Altan’s lawyers for his release, saying the Constitutional Court’s reasoned judgement had not been communicated.
The Constitutional Court’s reasoned judgement was published in the Official Gazette on January 19. In a decision released later in the day, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court argued that the Constitutional Court overstepped its jurisdiction by assessing merits of the case.
The court cited the gravity of the coup threat, the possibility that the defendant might escape and the length of the punishment sought as the grounds for its decision to continue detention of Altan.
The 26th High Criminal Court decision was taken with a majority vote, with a dissenting opinion from one of the three judges.
The full text of the court’s decision can be accessed here.
Altan’s lawyers will appeal the decision on Monday. They will also demand the recusal of the two judges, who voted to resist the top court’s ruling, from the Altan brothers case.
The Constitutional Court, reviewing individual applications filed on behalf of detained journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay and Turhan Günay of Cumhuriyet who spent months in pre-trial detention before being released, ruled on January 11 that the journalists’ rights were violated as a result of their pre-trial detention. But the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court and the 13th High Criminal Court, which oversees the trial of Şahin Alpay, refused to release Altan and Alpay.
On January 16, the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court also rejected petitions demanding the release of jailed Cumhuriyet journalists Ahmet Şık and Murat Sabuncu and the daily’s Executive Board Chairman Akın Atalay on grounds that Constitutional Court judgments are only relevant to the applicant who has submitted an individual application before the Court.
The lawyers for the detained Cumhuriyet journalists had demanded their release saying the Constitutional Court decision on Altan, Alpay and Günay set precedent for other imprisoned journalists.