The following questionnaire, conducted by P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, is part of a survey aimed at revealing the conditions faced by journalists in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or under a sentence. In addition to documenting the problems journalists might be facing during their time in prison, this survey is also aimed at helping improve their prison environment.
Mehmet Altan filled out the questionnaire during a prison visit in June 2018 by P24’s lawyers.
Name: Mehmet Altan
Prison: Silivri Prison
Detained since: September 22, 2016
In pretrial detention or under sentence: In pretrial detention pending appeal
1. Are you detained with other inmates or are you in solitary confinement? How many people do you share the prison ward/cell with?
I share a prison cell with two other inmates. It is a cell for three people.
2. How many hours a day are you allowed to go out to the courtyard or prison yard?
We are allowed to go out on the cell’s courtyard from the morning prisoner count until the evening count.
3. Have you had any problems regarding the food served in prison? Does the food meet your health and/or dietary requirements?
I haven’t had any problems concerning the food served here. It’s of a quality that can be deemed normal in a prison. I did not make any special dietary requests.
4. Have you had any problems in meeting your day-to-day needs such as heating, warm water for shower/bath, laundry, cleaning, etc.?
I haven’t had any such problems. Heating and warm water have been working fine. Food is taken care of by the prison management. They also recently introduced a laundry service for a fee. Alternately, you can choose to do your own laundry or to give it to your family.
5. Do you suffer from any chronic illnesses? Do you have to take regular medication? Do you have access to a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist whenever you need? Have you had any difficulty obtaining your prescribed medicines?
My regular medicines are being given. When we request to see a doctor we are referred to one in accordance with prison routines.
6. Have you had any problems sending/receiving letters?
I did not send any letters, but I did send out petitions and received application numbers and dates in return, without any problems. I received very few letters. I cannot comment on the receiving bit, for I don’t have any idea if and how many letters I was sent.
7. Have you faced any limitations concerning books, newspapers or other publications you asked for? How many books are you allowed in your prison ward/cell?
I wasn’t allowed to get a copy of the book that I wrote, titled “Marxist-Liberal” — they confiscated the volume saying it was subject to “scrutiny.” Other than that, I haven’t had too many problems concerning newspapers and books. My only problem is, the number of books we can keep in our cell to be limited to just 10 makes it a little difficult to produce any work.
8. How often can your lawyers or your immediate family visit you? Are other relatives or friends allowed to visit you?
My lawyers were only able to visit one hour each week until the court lifted the restriction on visitation. After the restriction was lifted, they have been able to visit whenever they need to. Only my immediate family is allowed visitation once a week. And I am permitted a phone call once every two weeks.
9. Have you been visited by a member of the parliament? If yes, could you please name those who came to your visit?
So many MPs came to visit me here. Around 15 lawmakers from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) have visited me since I was imprisoned.
10. Have you faced any problems preparing your defense statement? Do you have access to a computer, to the library, and to your case file while working on your defense statement?
Writing my defense statement was the most difficult and exhausting part of the entire [prison] process. I was neither allowed to use a computer nor the library.
11. Have you been subject to ill-treatment or any physical or verbal harassment? If so, have you filed a complaint, and if yes, what happened following your complaint?
I haven’t been subjected to any ill-treatment or harassment.
12. Have your demands in your petitions been met? Which of your requests have or have not been met?
I mostly got positive responses to my petitions. I haven’t had too many problems.
13. Please name any other problems/demands/shortcomings not mentioned above.
Since there is an emergency rule in place and since journalists in jail are treated as “terrorists” or “putschists,” there are more restrictions than in a regular prison as regards prison rights, such as making phone calls, contact visitation, communication, etc.).