Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu elaborates on the appeal court’s recent decision to release Mehmet Altan and the appeal process
Lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu released a statement on the release of journalist and academic Mehmet Altan after nearly two years in prison.
Altan was released by a decision of the appellate court on 27 June, in line with an earlier judgement on his pre-trial detention by the Constitutional Court. His brother, journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan remains in prison.
An English translation of the statement is as follows:
Mehmet Altan was released from prison on 27 June 2018 as a result of a review by the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court — which acts as an appellate court — of the case file No. 2018/1380.
The appeal request included the demand that a verdict of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, which had given aggravated life sentences to six defendants, including Mehmet Altan, in February be revoked for all the defendants concerned.
After an initial examination of the case file, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court decided on 27 June 2018 to hear the case. With that decision, it also reviewed and ruled on the ongoing detention of the defendants.
The appellate court abided by a Constitutional Court judgement announced on 11 January 2018 and ruled for the immediate release of Mehmet Altan accordingly. This was because the Constitutional Court, upon examining the most up-to-date version of the case file, established in its judgement (No. 2016/23672) that there was no “strong suspicion of crime” in Altan’s actions, which, according to the available evidence, consisted of writings and televised remarks, and that his detention led to three separate rights violations, and because the Constitutional Court judgments are binding on all institutions and persons under Article 153 of the Constitution.
The court ruled for the continuation of detention of all the other defendants and set the date for the first hearing of the appeal trial as 21 September 2018. Witnesses who were not heard during the original trial will be heard during the court session.
The appellate court ruled for a limited retrial in regard to the verdict of the court of first instance, as it set a hearing date. Its purpose is to assess whether there were any violations of the law during the trial by the court of first instance and remedy them.
As a result of the retrial, the appellate court can either reject the appeal request or revoke the verdict of the court of first instance and issue its own verdict. The court may revise the charges or prison terms in its new verdict; it may also rule for acquittal. In both cases, provided that necessary conditions exist, the appellate court’s decision can be appealed at the Court of Cassation.