Released from Silivri after nearly 20 months of imprisonment, Alpay will now be subject to house arrest and a travel ban 

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to release imprisoned journalist Şahin Alpay on March 16 following the Constitutional Court’s latest judgment favor of the veteran journalist, however, it placed Alpay under house arrest and also issued a travel ban pending the outcome of his trial.

Speaking as he left the Silivri Prison, where he was held in pre-trial detention for nearly 20 months, Alpay said he cannot consider himself free yet. “I am very happy to be with my family again but I cannot say I am free. The 20 months [behind bars] was very difficult. And now that I leave [the prison], there are thousands of people left behind who have nothing to do with terrorism or coup. I don’t believe Turkey will be free as long as they are not free.”

The Constitutional Court judgment dated March 15, communicated to the parties on March 16, held for a second time that Alpay’s personal rights were violated by his detention and expressly ordered his release.

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s January 11 ruling in favor of Alpay, saying his detention would be reviewed after the top court’s reasoned decision is formally communicated. A similar judgment the Constitutional Court rendered on the same day concerning the individual application on behalf of columnist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan was also not implemented by the respective trial court overseeing his case, prompting concerns on judicial independence in Turkey.

The Constitutional Court’s March 15 judgment comes ahead of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the individual applications on behalf of Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan on March 20.

Alpay and 29 other suspects face three aggravated life sentences on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, the Parliament and the constitutional order in the case against them, whose next hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2018.

The 74-year-old former Zaman columnist has spent 594 days in pretrial detention in the Silivri Prison as part of this case.

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