The panel on duty based its decision on the Court of Cassation’s ruling that called for Mehmet Altan’s acquittal
In an interim decision issued on 24 July 2019, the panel on duty of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court revoked an earlier decision of the same court to forcibly bring journalist and academic Mehmet Altan to the first hearing in his re-trial scheduled for 8 October 2019.
Mehmet Altan and five others, including his brother Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, were each sentenced in February 2018 to aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the government.” However, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the sentence, saying Mehmet Altan must have been acquitted. In its decision dated 5 July 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals also ruled that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization knowingly and willingly without belonging to its hierarchical structure” instead.
In its decision for a re-trial that was issued on 19 July, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court ruled for Mehmet Altan, who was released in 2018 after the Constitutional Court found his pre-trial detention to be a violation of his rights, to be forcibly brought to the first hearing of the re-trial and for defendants Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek to remain imprisoned.
Altans’ lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu objected to the court’s decision saying there was no legal ground justifying an order to forcibly bring Mehmet Altan to the court. She also filed a formal complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) against the court panel of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, saying they “failed to comply with principles of fair trial” and that the latest decision “proved once again that the court has lost its impartiality.”
Both the Constitutional Court in January 2018 and the European Court of Human Rights in March 2018 established that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated due to his pre-trial detention. The 26th High Criminal Court, however, had refused to release Altan despite the Constitutional Court’s decision. Altan was finally released in June 2018 by the decision of an appellate court. The appellate court said its decision to release Mehmet Altan was in accordance with the ruling of the Constitutional Court.
In her objection filed with the court, Çalıkuşu referred to the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling that called for Mehmet Altan’s acquittal. Çalıkuşu also added that according to Article 146 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK), only in cases where “there are sufficient grounds to issue an arrest warrant or an apprehension order” against the accused can the judge order them to be forcibly brought before the court. Çalıkuşu emphasized that in the case of Mehmet Altan there were no reasons to justify this decision.
Upon examining Çalıkuşu’s objection filed on 22 July, the panel on duty of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court emphasized that the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Mehmet Altan should have been acquitted of all charges. The judges unanimously voted in agreement with Çalıkuşu’s objection, revoking the decision to forcibly bring Altan.
Commenting on the decision, lawyer Çalıkuşu said “the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure rulings have been met, the unlawful decision has been reversed.” She added, however, that she was astonished to see that the original panel of the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which had delivered aggravated life sentences in a file where three higher courts did not find elements of a crime and is now intentionally contradicting the rulings of the Constitutional Court, will be overseeing the trial once again on 8 October and how the Council of Judges and Prosecutors remains silent.