Prominent columnist and economist Mehmet Altan, imprisoned as part of a “coup” trial since September 2016, appeared before judges at the first hearing of his trial on June 19-23, 2017. In his defense statement to the court, Altan defended his statements that the prosecutor claimed showed that he had known about the July 15, 2016 coup attempt beforehand and was thus in collaboration with the coup plotters, saying he had defended the rule of law in those statements.
The full text of Altan’s statement is as follows:
You would have tried Rousseau, too
Your Honour; Honourable Judges of the Panel,
Today I stand before you as a person whose liberty has been taken away from him since 10 September 2016 in a judicial process launched not on the basis of law but on perceptions, and as someone whose thoughts are on trial.
The most important distinction between a state and a criminal gang is its diligence in, and commitment to, universal standards of law and the laws it has itself enacted.
The moment the state’s punitive authority is detached from legislation, jungle rules come into play. The powers that believe they have overtaken the state start doing whatever they want, to whomever they want.
The law evaporates.
In the aftermath of the barbaric and bloody coup attempt of 15 July, it was expected that those effectively responsible for the carnage would be punished; but instead we saw that the tie that binds the state’s punitive power with the law was cut.
This new period, which has been described as a “gift from God” by politicians, has become a time marked by the silencing and punishing all dissenting voices and individuals.
I am one of those whose punishment is wanted.
Since my detention before a lengthy holiday on the basis of an invented accusation that didn’t even amount to a crime, the severity of the accusation was reduced to aiding an organisation “without being its member.” Yet my imprisonment has continued with the same rubber-stamped rejection decisions.
The severity of the accusation against me has lessened, but my detention period has extended and the punishment sought for me increased.
At the same time, I am the victim of a sinister process whereby I was the target of unlawful accusations that relied on no evidence or proof because of a 10-sentence reminder on “law and democracy”; whereby judges accepted an accusation that does not in fact constitute a crime without the slightest objection; and whereby I was arrested on a ruling which, in the future, will be remembered as a scandal in the history of the judiciary. I am currently on trial facing several life sentences on the basis of manufactured perceptions and made-up conclusions about my intentions not based on any solid evidence and to which all my legal objections were rejected without even being read.
I was initially detained on the basis of “membership in an Islamist terrorist organisation” and then readily accused in a shamelessly uncontentious manner, with authorities counting on a petty and devious operation to create misperceptions.
Having a “culture of objection” is the most important quality for “writing efforts” that produce universal results and for an academic career that goes beyond the local level unlike a “local tea brand”.
For such writers and academics, adhering to a culture of “unquestioning obedience” or being part of a “command chain” is out of question.
Their own truths are the only compass they have.
Their effort is spent looking for the truth.
I do not know what knowledge or accumulated information the prosecution has about writing or being an academic, but I am saying all this as a person who saw his by-line in print for the first time 49 years ago; as a writer who has 40 published books; as an academic of 31 years; and as a professor of 24 years.
I wish the prosecution had at least taken a glance at those efforts and not attempted its surprising attributions, which are completely devoid of any legal basis.
Unfortunately we are going through a shameful era, the like of which I haven’t witnessed even during times of military coups, where the law has died, where trials are based on manufactured perceptions and where “trial by media” is popular.
In the past, the “military tutelage” produced fake stories to create perceptions as part of its defamation campaign. Today, the same thing is being done by the “political tutelage.”
In “The Social Contract” of 1763 Jean-Jacques Rousseau writes:
“The dissolution of the State may come about in either of two ways.
First, when the prince ceases to administer the State in accordance with the laws, and usurps the Sovereign power.
A remarkable change then occurs: not the government, but the State, undergoes contraction.
I mean that the great State is dissolved, and another is formed within it, composed solely of the members of the government, which becomes for the rest of the people merely master and tyrant.” (Book III, Heading 10 “The Abuse of Government and its Tendency to Degenerate”)
If Rousseau stated these opinions, which he wrote 254 years ago, on television in our time, he would have been detained on the accusation that “he knew about the coup, and was sending out subliminal messages and creating fertile ground for a coup.” And subsequently, he would have been thrown into the Silivri dungeons to face three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Rousseau’s understanding of the law and my statements are both only about repeating Rousseau’s warnings for those who have “put the parliamentary regime on hold,” and who have said “there is a de facto situation.”
Of course, I wasn’t aware of a FETÖist coup but I know very well what the rule of law means and what it does not.
I am aware that I am here because I did not applaud the “massacring of democracy.”
How else could it be possible to do the magic trick of pulling out a punishment of three life sentences from a television programme where only the possible outcome of a general election planned two years later, and the possible political and legal developments that might take place up until that time were discussed?
What I have lived through since the day I was taken into custody until today is a brazen act of “deprivation of liberty.”
I continue to remain the victim of a crime described in Article 77 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
When the Turkish Penal Code was amended, I was very happy because finally the system would start to approach the suspect with the evidence at hand.
But today I see that “the disliked democrats,” “libertarians who voice criticism,” “those who have opposed the military guardianship regime more than anyone else,” “those who have opposed post-modern coups such as the 28 February  intervention” are being silenced.
First police custody, and then imprisonment pending trial…
Followed by the senseless effort to look for evidence, to see “if there’s anything we can find.”
This is what’s going on.
And, once it can be seen that there is no crime, come unlawful accusations and strange attempts to create evidence based on perceptions.
The most overwhelming part of preparing this defence statement in response to this indictment was having to submit my defence to irrational subjects such as the explanation that, “accusations that don’t have a character of a crime cannot be a crime,” and that, “what is not considered evidence cannot possibly serve as evidence.”
That the indictment gets to 247 pages simply by copying from another indictment, only two pages of which concern me, but still took seven months to prepare after I was detained is the most open and certain evidence of the act of “deprivation of liberty” which still continues into its 283rd day as I appear before your court.
The previous 282 days have been more than enough proof for me to see the senselessness and futility of speaking of the Constitution or the Turkish Penal Code. However, as a person who has become a defendant in such a period, I believe the injustice and cruelty of the day should be noted today for the days when the law will return.
I would like to provide two examples, one from early in my detention and one from just before I appeared before the court, to explain that this didn’t appear out of nothing.
I was detained one Saturday morning about two months after the bloody and barbaric coup attempt of 15 July on charges of “giving subliminal messages having the connotations of a coup” on the basis of the thoughts that I shared during a weekly television programme.
As is known to you all, such a crime and such an accusation cannot exist as per Article 38 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Despite the fact that no “subliminal messages connoting a coup” were given during that television programme, I was detained for “a message that never was and for a crime that wasn’t and that could never be.”
If you believe that the judiciary would normally resolve a legal aberration, you are making a big mistake.
Because the Criminal Judgeship of Peace has indifferently approved the prosecution’s request, in the same way as a notary would approve a formal document.
For nine months, different Criminal Judgeships of Peace rejected 20 objections I’ve filed against my arrest without paying the slightest of attention to the dozens of documents and proof I submitted, possibly without ever reading or reviewing them at all.
The phrase “the quality and scope of the levelled allegation, the presence of strong doubt” is now engrained in the memory department of my mind.
The continuous prevention of my liberty in such a manner of indifference has turned into a routine.
Yet I still had the tendency to view courts in a different light than I do the judgeships. That was until I saw the reasoning of the High Criminal Court that rejected my latest objection against my detention.
It cited the reason that “evidence has not been fully collected…”
But those pieces of evidence that could not be collected were finally collected in the indictment, which took nine months to prepare, and ran to:
Two articles written by me and a television statement I made.
I understood that there is a chilling and an equally horrifying reflex at work here, which has replaced justice.
Had a tiny flicker of attention been paid to the indictment against me, a legal development that should be heeded would have been known.
I was subject to detention at a police station for 12 days, police interrogation and, immediately after that, a prosecutorial interrogation, which I later understood was a complete formality, before I was then referred to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace at the crack of dawn.
As someone coming from a family whose members have been investigated in more than 400 trials, I was arrested on the basis of a law created on the basis of a certain political discourse that I had never before seen, heard or come across, on charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation.”
At the end of a nine-month long process, it was realised that I could not be a member of an “Islamist organisation” because of my social life.
According to the indictment, I have nothing to do with Islamism but in the same indictment, I am accused of conducting efforts to prepare the grounds for a “bloody and violent coup attempt” to “establish a theocratic state.”
On page 155 of the indictment, the purpose of the FETÖ/PDY [Gulenist] organisation is described as “establishing a theocratic state dominated by sharia law.”
Am I going to help expand the grounds for a coup so that an Islamist terrorist organisation, of which I cannot be a member because of my social life, can establish a theocratic state?
And all this in the face of the fact that I have written so many articles criticizing political Islam over the years.
I would like to read some sentences from some of my articles written at various times:
“Turkey has finally seen what political Islamist fascism really is…”
“Turkey has somehow reached the end of politics of mosques and barracks. After this point, politics cannot be conducted by using the military or political Islam.”
“The segment worst abused by Political Islam are the pious people of urban areas.”
“Political Islam has become the biggest obstacle in the way of Cultural Islam.”
“I should say this: it has become evident that political Islam is an ignominy…”
“Turkey had to overcome military tutelage. Instead of remaining frozen forever within the same military custodianship out of fear for Political Islam, it is preferable to purge that custodianship first and then settle accounts with Political Islam and carry Turkey to democracy by overcoming every flaw…”
Don’t these accusations against me seem very problematic in their of logic and consistency?
Before moving on to the allegation, regarding the accusation that is not described in the Turkish Penal Code and that lacks any relevant evidence, I would like to inform the court that I am not a politician, bureaucrat or military official.
Among those who have been indicted along with me, Ahmet Altan is my brother and Nazlı Ilıcak is a friend of mine whom I’ve known for many years. I don’t have any relationship with any of the others.
In my life as an academic for more than 30 years, I’ve written 40 books and saw my name in print for the first time 49 years ago.
Against the accusation that I am part of the media arm of the coup, I would like to underline that I have not written in any newspaper since 2012.
The core of the ridiculous accusation is the claim that, with an Islamist terrorist organisation of which I am not a “member,” and without knowing any officials in the military or anyone who played a role in the coup attempt, I “had prior information about the coup.”
While my fight against any kind of tutelage (military or civilian), my stance for democracy and the rule of law, my identity as witnessed by society, my personality, the writings I’ve produced over the years, my books, and my speeches on record are all out there, why, how and for what could I have prior information about the coup and why would I support it?
Why would I collaborate with Islamist groups?
For what purpose; in what expectation?”
In the indictment, there is not even a logical rationale, let alone a single piece of evidence – nor could either of those exist.
However, I see that there is no need for any evidence, proof or, most certainly, the law to prepare such an indictment or to make such an accusation.
Being moved out of the category of “membership in a terrorist organisation” in the indictment while I was initially accused of membership, however, automatically removes the “presence of solid evidence strongly suggestive of a crime.”
Unfortunately, I have been under arrest for 283 days because of these oddities and, more strangely, three aggravated life sentences have been demanded.
Can free speech that doesn’t propagate violence or use of force be the subject of any crime?
It cannot be.
But apparently it can be the subject of a scandalous cruelty such as the accusation of being a putschist tied to an “Islamist terrorist organisation”, through perception manufacturing in the overtly unlawful times we live in, which will be remembered as a disgrace when the country returns to normal and when the rule of law is restored.
I would like to focus individually on each of the so-called claims that I had “prior knowledge of the coup” — a crime that is not described in the Turkish Penal Code — which derives not from the legal opinion of the prosecution but rather from their personal views.
However, let it be known that I have made a defence statement that I am innocent of all accusations that do not constitute a crime.
According to the law, for the accusation levelled against me to be established as a crime, an action that is defined as a crime by the law should be proven. In spite of that, the fact that I am making an effort to prove my innocent stands as the most solid proof that I have been deprived of every legal safeguard as an individual.
The thrust of the indictment against me is the claim that “I had prior knowledge of the coup.”
I knew that the coup was going to take place because I gave subliminal messages about the coup on a television programme, which means that I must be in contact with those plotting the coup and they told me that they were going to perpetrate a coup. How else can a person say that there will be a coup?
But did I say that there would be a coup? No.
These enormous, weighty claims that I am a putschist are only someone’s personal view.
They are the view of the Prosecutor’s Office, which drafted the indictment. But because it is devoid of proof and legal basis, the accusations ring hollow and weak, despite their colossal size.
The indictment runs to hundreds of pages about subjects that have nothing to do with me, while the parts of it that related to me are restricted only to this view.
The TV programme that aired on 14 July:
Esteemed judges of the panel;
Based on a paragraph-long statement I made during a television statement, it is claimed I knew of the coup prior to its occurrence and, as such, three consecutive life sentences and an additional 15-year prison term is sought for me:
1. This TV programme was aired every Thursday and it is a programme where the developments of the entire week were considered.
It is not true, as it has been suggested, that the programme was aired “one day before the coup” deliberately. It was aired on Thursday as it had been every week, on its normally designated time and date. Thursday coincided with the date 14 July that week, and the programme was aired at the scheduled time.
2) Can Erzincan TV was broadcasting on the state-inspected TURKSAT satellite on the day of the programme, as it always had been. Additionally, it reached D-Smart platform’s subscribers on channel 220. In short, it is an official, legal and legitimate station.
3) The programme’s guests have predominantly included liberals and democrats with ambassadors and professors being preferred more often.
4) On the day of July 14, the most important items of the week were chosen and discussed as had been done every Thursday.
Among the developments of the week, the Protocol on Cooperation for Security and Public Order (EMASYA); the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) congress and the process that had continued since early May to increase the possibility of Meral Akşener taking the helm of the MHP; and the upcoming trial of guest Ahmet Altan and his upcoming book Dying is Easier Than Loving were chosen. The novel and the historical events that were part of it were given a larger place in the discussion.
By detaching the guests of the programme and the programme’s content and the statements made during the programme from this context, the following claim has been made:
“That by making threatening and insult-like statements about the President of the Republic of Turkey, the Esteemed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and officials of the government of the Republic of Turkey; by stating that the deeds and procedures they have conducted are against the law, that they are committing crimes, that they are preparing the grounds for a military coup, that whatever developments made the coups that have taken place in our country possible, the Esteemed President, by making the same decisions in our day, is opening the same possibilities again; that in a short period he will leave the administration of the country and he will be put on trial — a discourse that was repeated countless times — and given these statements they have stated that the coup was going to take place; that it is impossible for them to know about the coup attempt without being in concert with the terrorist organisation in thought and in deed, and for them to declare this one day before the coup in a way that would shape public opinion; and that their purpose was to legitimize the coup in the making..”
Again, the claim that “we had prior knowledge of the coup” asserts itself by making up assumptions about our intentions, and also by making the wrong assumptions about those intentions.
5) As is known to all, EMASYA is the name of a practice that allows the military authorities to take action in the presence of a “crisis” independently of the civilian authorities and without taking orders.
We chose it as a topic for discussion because the civilian authorities in power enabled a practice which prevents the direct trial of military officials.
In the programme, we speak about how dangerous it is for the civilian authorities to put EMASYA into action, bringing a shield of immunity to the military bureaucracy and allowing the promotion of coup plotters by enacting laws that fall well out of line with the State’s historical traditions, and we criticise this.
Can someone who offers criticism and a warning be a putschist?
Can cautioning against a coup prepare the grounds for a coup?
As a matter of fact, in the FETÖ indictment prepared by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, it has been documented that a law allowing the putschist military officers to be rapidly promoted in a procedure that is outside the traditional process of military promotions was sponsored by 37 government MPs.
This is exactly what was emphasized in the television programme.
It was stated this is a major threat for democracy; that a practice which allows the military bureaucracy to take action without the oversight and approval of the elected government might lead to illegitimate military attempts similar to the ones that have been experienced in Turkey’s past, and the civilian authorities were cautioned against this and criticized for it.
For example, in the programme, Ahmet Altan said: “Civilian politicians open the way for a coup when they start to play games with military officials.”
And in response I gave the following example:
“Morsi played with el-Sisi.”
Because el-Sisi’s spouse was wearing a hijab, putting his hopes on this, Morsi pushed politics into the military. He appointed el-Sisi but then el-Sisi overthrew Morsi.
In this part of the speech, repeated warnings are made not to fall into the traps that might lead to a coup.
It must be the product of a different type of talent to reach the conclusion that I “had prior knowledge of the coup attempt” — the thrust of the indictment, with the aim of conducting perception management and propaganda without proof, context or basis — from this statement which has caution in its core and shares information about past experiences.
And this, in spite of the fact that the obligation to adhere to a legitimate, legal, democratic and lawful mentality was emphasized at every stage and opportunity.
We talked about the planned elections two years later, that the government’s votes were falling, that it might not win the next elections, and about how a legitimate development in the parliament might change the political picture.
Ahmet Altan says in this segment: “The elections are approaching. Nobody can know for sure what is going to happen in the elections two years later.”
And in response I say, based on the possibility of a legitimate development taking place in the legislative organ and depending on the result of the scheduled MHP congress:
“No, it is not clear even what might happen in two years in this country.”
And in response to this view, Ahmet Altan says: “If 50 AKP MPs say ‘we are setting up a new party with Akşener’ and leave the AKP, the entire system would fall into pieces.”
Would someone who knew about the coup speak about the elections and the possible legitimate developments that might take place under the roof of the parliament in two years’ time?
And when one looks at it, between that day and today, Turkey has experienced the developments that were mentioned in the programme.
The AKP and the MHP decided to act jointly before the referendum. But didn’t the outcome show that the voters of these two parties didn’t act together? The calculated outcome and the final outcome didn’t match. Is that not so?
6) As a matter of fact, the path that led to the 15 July coup occurred exactly as part of a process where none of these warnings were heeded.
Let us go back a little:
In the opening ceremony for many facilities President Erdoğan made in March 2015, he said: “The parliamentary system which was started at different times by different people was moved into the ‘waiting room’ by our people on 10 August with no possibility of return.”
(I had read that after this speech lawyer and professor Hüseyin Durdu petitioned the Denizli Chief Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds of violations of Articles 309 and 311 of the Turkish Penal Code).
In another speech he made in August 2015, President Erdoğan says: “Whether it is accepted or not, Turkey’s executive system has changed in this sense. Now what needs to be done is for this de facto situation to be solidified in a constitutional sense.”
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, in a statement he made in June 2016 says: “Executive presidency is being implemented in a de facto manner. With this fact out there, the constitution should be made to match the de facto situation.”
In a speech he made on 13 October 2016 at the International Istanbul Law Congress, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said: “A de facto executive presidency exists in Turkey.”
The fact that there is a “de facto executive presidency” in place has been publicly announced by the president, the prime minister and the justice minister.
Is pointing out the problems and turbulence this will lead to in terms of the constitutional order being a putschist?
Or is it defending the constitutional order and the supremacy of the law and cautioning against illegitimate developments by reminding that the civilian authorities cannot have the freedom to commit crimes?
From what I understand, according to the indictment, recalling the provisions of the Constitution and defending the law and the legitimate order is considered a crime.
At this point, I would like to recall the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that I mentioned earlier in my speech: “The dissolution of the State may come about in either of two ways. First, when the prince ceases to administer the State in accordance with the laws, and usurps the Sovereign power.”
Let us continue remembering the past:
MHP Deputy Leader Semih Yalçın made the warning: “If the de facto situation continues, we might as well be faced with a new coup.”
Finally, on October 15, 2016, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said: “If the de facto situation continues, Turkey would be dragged into an atmosphere of crisis and chaos.”
Deputy Prime Minister Türkeş made the following warning in January 2017: “The words ‘we are placing the de facto situation into a legal framework’ are a trap. I am saying this openly and clearly. Do not say these words or let others say them. If you defend this statement, you would have effectively admitted that the current President is going beyond his powers and committing a crime.”
In order to address the “concern about a crisis, chaos and coup stemming from the de facto situation” because of the de facto executive presidency that violated the constitution, a constitutional change was made in Turkey.
On 16 April 2017, a referendum journey started and the de facto executive presidency was ended.
As the statement “There is a de facto executive presidency in Turkey” was a situation that would necessitate action under the Turkish Penal Code, just like AKP Deputy Prime Minister Türkeş also warned, it must be an oddity unique to this land to try those who drew attention to this point in a “parliamentary, democratic state with the rule of law” and described the possible dangers, on charges of “having prior knowledge of the coup” and demanding three aggravated life sentences.
When those who openly violate the constitution state that the constitution is being violated, is it I, who has spent his entire life fighting coups and all kinds of tutelages, who issues warnings about how breaking the law would totally shatter society and the state, who is guilty? Is that so?
I still stand behind those words of mine with which I tried to tell of the massive problems created for the state and society of a “de facto situation” without changing the constitution when the existing parliamentary regime is in place, and sending this regime forcibly out into the waiting room with no return, and I would like to repeat those words. Because these are exactly my thoughts; those that I have been trying to express for years.
As someone who has spoken about coups in Turkey for more than thirty years, as someone who has books on the topic, I am making my warnings in the TV programme because of this reason as well. Look what I said:
“Someone who is not legitimate cannot be that powerful”
“…believing that you will take over a state by committing a crime with a mentality outside the law… If that state is going to continue to exist, this is a form of recklessness and inside the State of Turkey there is probably another structure that documents and monitors all of these developments more closely than the rest of the world. In other words, it is not clear when it will show its face and how.”
Because when you want to take over the state, you want to destroy a metabolism. And that metabolism has its own [defensive] reflex. What are the elements that will show those reflexes? You cannot destroy these. If you do, the state and society would be destroyed anyway. If this is not going to happen, you can’t destroy these.”
I can tell you who is monitoring: The legislative, the executive, the judiciary, the European Union, the European Commission, the Venice Commission and the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
How do they show their faces? For example, like how the Constitutional Court did during the AKP closure case or like how the executive organ showed its face at the time of the 27 April military memorandum, or the Venice Commission about the State of Emergency decrees, or like the time when footage showing a girl being shot by the police in Sarıyer, which was said to have been deleted by police, was retrieved by the Gendarmerie Criminology Department.
There is no system regulating an executive presidency in the Constitution, and there is none that regulates a de facto executive presidency either.
The same culture that was too intimidated to implement any legal sanctions against those who announced a “de facto situation” when the Constitution was in place, without making guiding and legitimate amendments to it, now wants to punish with life sentences those who drew attention to the presence of the “legislative, executive and judicial” branches with expressions of warning.
Is this not a very strong and heart-breaking contrast?
It is in such an environment that I appear before your court.
Article 2 of the Constitution lists the qualities of the Republic as a “democratic and secular state with the rule of law which respects human rights.” These adjectives have, at this time, all turned into a highly advanced fantasy.
If the law was alive, it would have been out of the question for me to be detained for a crime that doesn’t exist and that I have not committed; for me to be arrested with no proof or evidence through an overtly politicized process; for my objections to be continuously rejected with trite statements, and for my status of being under arrest remaining in place with no review whatsoever, with such carelessness that it will serve as a document that represents this period in the future.
The entire legislation, starting with the Constitution, wouldn’t have been trampled underfoot like a doormat countless times.
And no special effort would have been made to avoid looking at my life and thoughts as a whole, to invent an excuse to arrest me instead.
On top of this, I have said years ago that a “religious network” acting outside the existing legislation within the state would never be allowed to breathe in a real state.
Again, I had made the “parallel state” criticism years ago.
I will shortly provide examples for all of these.
I wish that the nearly 40 books I have published would have been just glanced at and that this extensive effort for my forced imprisonment had not been taken up.
But why has this been done; what is going on? How shall it be explained?
Before refuting all the evidence counted in the indictment, I would like to present what is happening:
During the 28 February process, in a strange coincidence, the perpetrators of the post-modern coup, the putschists, produced fake news reports about me and my brother Ahmet Altan, who is also a defendant before this court. The inauthenticity of these reports was revealed by Nazlı Ilıcak, who is again another defendant in this trial.
I would like to recall the purpose of the 28 February campaign of fake news reports, which is almost exactly the same as the mentality which is targeting me today:
“Reducing the respectability of the said journalists and undermining of their reputation; turning public opinion against them for their indirect support for the terrorist organisation.”
Today, we see that the perpetrators of the 28 February coup are on trial but the practice and mentality of defamation through fake news reports continue to persist, stronger than ever.
If you have, like I have, fought against both military and civilian tutelage for years; if you have stood, like I have, against both military coups and theocracy for years; if you have spent a life time, like I have, wanting the democratization of the Republic according to universal standards and with an EU membership perspective; and if you make efforts towards this end, then both military coups and civilian tutelage will produce fake reports about you to hurt your reputation.
You are defamed through fake news as a putschist although not a member of a terrorist organisation, even though all of your efforts against military tutelage are known to all; you are defamed as being “linked to an Islamist organisation” despite having written dozens of articles in favour of “democratic secularism,” and for having preserved the same stance and having made the same statements for years; you would be defamed as a terrorist attempting to “overthrow the government with a coup d’état” despite your endless efforts to help the Constitutional democratic order to truly assume these qualities.
On page 127 of the indictment is a detailed description stating that the FETÖ/PDY organisation supported the 28 February process.
As I said just now, I was targeted by fake reports during the 28 February process.
How is it that I “prepare the grounds for a coup” in spite of such deep schisms with this organisation?
And, on top of that, this is a coup that had establishing a “theocratic state” as its purpose.
I can give you yet another example for the internal inconsistencies inside the indictment:
On page 55 of the indictment, the FETÖ/PDY terror organisation is blamed for the Hrant Dink murder.
While I am being accused of supporting a coup on the basis of a statement I made during a single television programme; for some reason, many of the articles I have written about the Hrant Dink murder, just like all my other articles, and my denunciation of the organisation in those articles, are being overlooked.
The following is an excerpt from just a single article of mine:
“Three years have passed since the murder of Hrant Dink. Today is Hrant’s anniversary.”
“The real murderers still haven’t been found.”
“…In the Hrant Dink murder, hit-men and those who turned him into an open target in the process leading up to the murder; those who isolated him inside society; the media arms of this plan; the place of the members of the judiciary in this campaign and again in the same process and those who facilitated the murder by not fulfilling their duties should be evaluated as a whole, and the roles of each in the criminal act and their ties to the organisation should be examined.”
How can I possibly be part of such an organisation while I have expressed these same thoughts not only in my articles but also on pages 164-190 of my book titled “Nationalism and Gangs”?
My identity, what I have done, my articles, my speeches, my books and my three-decade long career as a university professor which has been sought to be ended with a midnight decree, are all out there.
There is no point in me telling.
I would like to explain yet with one more sentence from my book “Turkey Inside the Parenthesis of the Mosque and Barracks” published in 2012 why both “military and civilian tutelage regimes” seek to produce fake reports about me:
“In the 15th year since the 28 February postmodern coup, it still remains unknown whether we will be able to transition to a democracy at EU standards from the 12 September regime. For politicians, it is more attractive to take over the 12 September regime rather than destroy it.”
“The purpose in Turkey is to conduct politics on the basis of the military and the mosque’s congregation, and to play their songs.”
“This in turn leads to 28 Februaries and 27 Aprils being relived.”
As someone who has a background in these experiences, I am today obliged to add “15 July” to those interventions that I have named above.
What I have stated on the television programme, and what has been presented as the basis for the demand to punish me with three life terms, are these thoughts, which I have defended and fought for for years.
My book entitled “The Economy of Coups”, which I wrote in 1990, also includes these expressions and thoughts.
When I think that a road is being paved with the tiles of hell that might lead to a coup in a working state system, I remind you of the views that I shared 27 years ago in this book; I shared my concerns and voiced my warnings.
Let me read to you a paragraph from an interview I gave on 3 September 2010:
“If there is a military judiciary in a country, that country cannot be a natural state with the rule of law. If there is a parallel structure which you claim is committed to the command chain and if nobody is bringing this up, that’s when you stop being a state where the rule of law prevails.”
“If in a democratic state where the law prevails, a civilian dictatorship can be established; that shows that you haven’t been able to establish a state at all. For example, if a religious network can take over the state, that means that the state is not a state. In democracies, there are reflexes to ensure that the system can protect itself against anti-democratic tendencies. The state is a massive organism, which cannot be seized by anyone. It can’t be that the state hasn’t been seized during times of a military regime but it is seized when someone else’s influence over the state is increased. In fact, the state should be effective within universal legal standards in which nobody is influential.”
In 2010, when I was voicing warnings about the commitment to law and democracy, about military tutelage or religious networks taking over the state, the prime minister of the time had thanked Fethullah Gülen, who is based in the US. He had said: “I would like to congratulate all my brothers who have supported this process from across the ocean.” The prime minister had said:“Since there are messages across the ocean, then we should have a response for those who give this message.”
In the year 2010, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the word “religious reactionaryism” was taken off the Red Book of national security threats at the National Security Council Meeting (MGK), and the “said religious networks” were not included in it.
Efforts again to become the owner of the system, rather than democratize it…
In the 12 October 2011 issue of Star newspaper, I use the same description and made an open warning in my article titled “Has military tutelage ended?”
“Has military tutelage ended?”
If propaganda saying it has ended is made without taking institutional, permanent and deep-rooted measures, the positive steps taken would prove to be temporary…
For, the fundamental necessity is not to take what is at hand under control, but to democratize the regime…
If this is not done, nobody should be surprised by a very harsh revengeful comeback in the most unexpected moment…
I don’t know if anyone would hear me out, but as a citizen with experience, I am warning, once again…”
In an interview I gave to Köprü magazine in 2012, I put forward a similar argument, saying:
“But when a state is taken over, it ceases to be a state. Because the state is a body of legal regulations, which cannot be seized and which is oriented towards constantly renewing itself. It is a structure that paves the way for the advancement and transformation of society whilst also transforming itself in tandem with this process. When you say you have seized the state by taking control of the intelligence apparatus, the military, etc., Uludere happens. That is, you see that you have in fact failed to seize it.”
And I make the same warning in another article of mine, dated 27 January 2014:
“Ankara is a political cemetery for many politicians who thought forming coalitions with the military was smart.
Süleyman Demirel paid the price for preserving the pro-military status quo and dreaming about consolidating his power through cooperating with the military, rather than democratizing the regime, by getting ousted over and over again.
And Erbakan, as well… His “smart” venture of linking arms with the deep state and brushing aside the Susurluk scandal as “fiddle-faddle” brought about [the process of] 28 February .
Plans to cooperate with the military to govern the country have always resulted in coups.
And they always do.
If you don’t follow the law, if you bring powers other than the legitimate ones into politics, if you commit crimes, then you destroy the law and condemn the country to an unlawful rule.
If the country is ruled by “unlawfulness,” only the “powerful” call the shots and the law is not the source of legitimacy, then the “most powerful” will rule.
And the most powerful is the military, which effectively owns the weapons. When the law is destroyed and the door is left cracked open for the illegitimate, the military would be the first to walk through that door. And it would lock up whoever it is that opened the door for it.
We are not headed in the right direction.
If the troops leave their barracks, the “democrats” will not be the only ones they will take away, they will come for you too.
Today, it is an inescapable duty for all of us to bring this government back into the realm of “legitimacy,” restore the rule of law, protect democracy, keep the military out of politics and emphasize strongly that seeking a coup is a crime.”
As you see, I, the writer, journalist, academic, professor Mehmet Altan, am not only deprived of my liberty but also have to witness my constitutional rights and guarantees to live in a country governed by the rule of law being taken away from me as I am accused of putschism for expressing the opinions and thoughts I have held for years during a television programme…
In violation of Article 24 of the Constitution, I am accused and prosecuted for my views and opinions and compelled to reveal my thoughts.
This oppression has been reconstituted in new forms for years; thoughts that the establishment and holders of power do not like are sought out to be stifled.
The “defamation campaign” through fake reports that I mentioned earlier continues.
- I expressed my knowledge, my thoughts, as a writer and an academic.
But the investigation I have done in the course of this process, which I view as a deliberate and planned game of slander, has shown me that it is as if everyone except me had known that this coup was coming.
I have even read in the indictment prepared by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, dated 6 June 2016 and numbered 2016/24769 (Investigation No: 2014/37666), that “the threat of a coup attempt by the terrorist organisation called FETÖ/PDY is clear and imminent.”
I have obtained this information through the Constitutional Court decision dated 4 August 2016.
I have seen that although the indictment of the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, dated 6 June 2016 and numbered 2016/24769 (Investigation No: 2014/37666 E.), is frequently mentioned throughout the indictment in which I am accused, this critical finding of the indictment that “the threat of a coup attempt by the terrorist organisation called FETÖ/PDY is clear and imminent” is, for some reason, ignored.
It makes you wonder: Was this critical information ignored because of a concern that the allegation that I had “known about the coup beforehand” would have collapsed otherwise?
Strangely, the justice system has so far not taken any action against any of the people who had known that the coup was coming.
I have seen that those who had not known about the coup, if they had a principled and unwavering stance, were attacked with “putschism” slander, while those who had known, if they are not in the opposition camp, were provided with political protection through by the turning of a blind eye or the classification of their foreknowledge as an act of journalism.
I would like to offer you the following documents:
In an article by Turgay Güler printed in Akşam daily on 5 January 2016, entitled “I am warning: They are cooking up a coup”;
In an article by Cem Küçük, entitled “Beware! Parallel structure in effort to mobilize its members within the military” and published in Star daily on 16 May 2015;
In a March 2016 article by Michael Rubin, entitled “Will there be a coup against Erdoğan in Turkey?”;
In a 4 April 2016 article by Hüsamettin Aslan published in Milat daily, titled “CIA is preparing a coup in Turkey”;
In an article that was titled “What lies behind military coup rumours?” and published on the OdaTV website on 2 April 2016;
In an article by Fuat Uğur, titled “The [Gülen] Movement gathers private [imams] in Ankara for coup” and published in Türkiye daily on 2 April 2016;
In an article by Rasim O. Kütahyalı, published in Sabah daily on 27 March 2016 and entitled “Operations targeting Turkey and Erdoğan”;
And in an article by Hüseyin Likoğlu, published in Yeni Şafak daily on 27 June and entitled “The golden shot of disciple officers” (more will come up in an online search), it has been written openly that preparations for a coup in Turkey were under way, sharing this information with the readers in varying contexts.
The General Staff even released a statement in response to these reports on 31 March 2016, denying “coup allegations” and promising to “file legal complaints against those who make such allegations in the media.”
It has also been revealed subsequently that Putin’s special adviser [Alexander] Dugin warned of a “mobilization within the Turkish military on 14 July.”
Furthermore, [Patriotic Party leader] Doğu Perinçek has revealed that his deputy went to Yeni Şafak daily on 14 July to report that a coup attempt was to take place.
Yeni Şafak’s headline on 14 July 2016 reads “FETÖ accusation against 18 pashas.”
What I am trying to explain is that rumours of a coup were on the public’s agenda since 2015; that they were reported by columnists, and talked of by politicians.
And still, it is being publicly stated, reported in the press, and debated on television programmes that there would be a new coup attempt.
And again, no legal action is being taken against those who wrote or talked about it.
I would like to ask right at this point: Can “coup preparations” be the talk of the town for two years in a democratic state governed by the rule of law?
These are the consequences of failure to follow the law.
They are a manifestation of the decaying, failing metabolism that I keep talking about.
Try to imagine another context in which the word “infiltration” is thrown around so liberally.
We come across the words “they infiltrated” everywhere throughout the indictment.
Is there no “state” in this country?
Are its mechanisms of monitoring not functioning?
Isn’t it the duty of the government to run, to govern the state?
The state is dysfunctional, the government is non-existent, and all the while a ferocious, murderous Islamist terrorist group keeps infiltrating every corner of the state.
Can an indictment be based on such a presupposition?
I am repeating once again; all this that we have been going through is the result of not following the law, but of retiring from it, burying it, suffocating it and trampling all over it.
So is the fact that I am here before you as a defendant today and put on trial for my thoughts…
I said exactly what I had been saying for 40 years during that television programme. I still hold those views and today, here in this courtroom where I stand trial, I repeat what I said during that television program as my defence:
“The state should be an organism that can not be taken over by any power. Attempting to take over the state is mindlessness, what should be done is to democratize the system through lasting and definitive measures — not changing hands and seizing its control. Otherwise, you would eventually realize that it cannot be seized, but the process of unlawfulness that begins with violating the law corrupts the metabolism and the society.
For this reason, in democracies, there are defensive reflexes of the system against anti-democratic tendencies. What I mean by these reflexes is that they are there to block the ruling power’s inclinations to break with the constitutional order and commit crimes. They are there to prevent criminal attempts by state institutions to break with the constitutional and legal order, to detect and respond to such attempts in accordance with laws, thus strengthening the rule of law.
If, for instance, a movement can take control of the state, then that state is not a state.
If the country is to be ruled by “unlawfulness,” if only the “powerful” are to call the shots, if the source of legitimacy is not to be sought in the law, then the “most powerful” would seize the power.
And the most powerful is none other than the military, which effectively owns the weapons. When the law is destroyed and the door is left cracked open for the illegitimate, the military would be the first to walk through that door. And it would lock up whoever it is that opened the door for it.
Therefore, for a healthy society, universal legal norms with which no one can interfere must prevail in the state.
Inviting the ruling authority that introduced a presidential system back into the realm of “legitimacy,” warning of risks posed by this situation, restoring the rule of law, defending democracy and calling on the military to stay out of politics cannot be evidence that “I had known about the coup beforehand.” I reject that.
On the contrary, warning that defying the constitutional order by committing crimes would pave the way for illegitimate developments is “anti-putschism” in its fullest sense.
These warnings that I have been making in my writings and speeches for years have been ignored and, eventually, a coup attempt occurred.
As a result of the deviation from the law, the society was corrupted and the metabolism got diseased.
Today, talks of a new coup attempt are still making the rounds. The metabolism is still afflicted with disease.
Another proof that the metabolism is diseased is the fact that I am here as a defendant today, that my constitutional rights as a citizen of this country and my liberty have been taken away from me. In violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, my freedom of thought and opinion has been taken away from me. I am compelled to reveal my thoughts and opinions and I am accused for my thoughts and opinions.
Yes, the metabolism is corrupted; the judiciary and the legal system are in dire straits. Nearly 5,000 members of the judiciary have been dismissed; judges jailing other judges are jailed, themselves, by other judges.
Court judges get suspended overnight because of their verdicts. The principle of legal certainty is under a massive attack.
No one can, or indeed should, say what is happening today is natural in a country governed by the rule of law.
If we get back to the indictment;
It is claimed, based on the allegation that I “had known about the coup beforehand,” that I am part of the “media arm” of the coup attempt, in an effort to support the claim that I am a “putschist.”
I was the chief columnist of Star newspaper until 2012, when I was fired. After that date, I did not write for any newspaper. Wouldn’t I be supposed to be writing for a newspaper if I am part of the “media arm”?
And I don’t necessarily have to write for a newspaper to be part of the “media arm” but my phone conversations from 2008 can be accepted as evidence that I am, right?
The indictment states the following and presents it as if it is evidence: “Nurettin Veren, a former leader of the organisation who later left and gave statements about members and activities of the organisation, said in the relevant part of his statement taken at our Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 24.10.2016 that Alaeddin KAYA was the strongest figure of the media element of the organisation in the period after his departure, that he was the person who maintained contacts between Fetullah GÜLEN and members of the media operating in our country, that, in this respect, he maintained the relationship between journalists such as Ahmet ALTAN, Mehmet ALTAN and Nazlı ILICAK and that they met with Alaeddin KAYA frequently.”
The person whose statement is cited in the indictment is an informant.
He has made false allegations that have nothing to do with facts and which are devoid of sense and reason not just about me but also about many other people. He appeared on a television show hosted by Didem Arslan on CNNTürk and spent hours shamelessly telling lies upon lies without so much as a blink.
The statement that I “frequently met with Alaeddin Kaya” is one of these made-up allegations. Indeed, in the indictment, in the telephone conversations chart on page 212, it is revealed that I only had one phone conversation with that person, on 26 September 2008.
The allegation of an informant that is cited as evidence in the indictment is debunked in the indictment itself; it is invalid.
The date of the conversation is 2008. And on what basis is it deemed to be a crime?
I was still the chief columnist of Star at that time and the said person was dealing with financial affairs of the newspaper.
This is what is meant by the term “frequent meetings”…
Statements about me from this person, whose credibility as an unbiased witness is highly questionable, are untrue.
What is the legal basis for going back to 2008, presenting one telephone conversation from that year as evidence and attributing a crime on this basis? What law has such a norm?
In this respect, I would like to mention Historical Traffic Search (HTS) records about me, which do not specify the number and contents of the conversations, as well.
On page 243 of the indictment, the prosecutor claims that I “had a record of communication with people who had a record of communication with the people said to be involved in the coup attempt” and thus I am “in contact with people behind the coup attempt.”
Such an allegation amounts to trampling on all of my rights as a citizen that are constitutionally guaranteed in a country governed by the rule of law.
To put it another way:
Does having spoken on the phone to people who have spoken on the phone to the brother-in-law or sister-in-law of a murder suspect make you a murder suspect as well?
Can there be such an understanding of the law, such a philosophy, such norms?
I don’t know some of the people listed in the indictment. People listed in HTS records with whom I had phone communications between 2007 and 2014 are not known as criminals.
Shouldn’t we ask what the prescribed time period of the crime is according to this indictment, given that it lists HTS records dating back 10 years?
Is it the 2004 document of the National Security Council (MGK)?
Is it 17-25 December 2013, as the government insists?
Or is it the Erzincan High Criminal Court decision dated 16 June 2016, as underscored in the indictment?
Similarly, why is there no time period stated as the date of crime vis-à-vis my phone communications with nine people from 10 years ago?
If phone conversations with these people from 10 years ago were a crime and I am, thus, a criminal, who else have these people had communications with?
If those who had phone conversations with these people are deemed to be in contact with the coup plotters, shouldn’t everyone who has ever had communications with them be arrested?
As far as I can see, all the people who are listed in HTS records and communication with whom is presented as evidence of crime are executives of media institutions operating legally and under state supervision. Some have served as advisers to members of the government.
It cannot be a coincidence that criminalizing the act of having phone conversations with other people — despite the fact that it is a fundamental right and freedom safeguarded by the Constitution — and arresting a person two months after the 15 July coup attempt on the basis of such implausible accusations as being a “putschist, terrorist, sympathizer of an Islamist terrorist organisation” come at a time when all the dissenting voices in the country have been silenced, the law has ceased to function and the regime has changed.
And in this politicized and suffocating atmosphere, the charges stem not from imperative provisions of the law but from the perceptions manufactured via disseminations of the pro-government media/the prosecutor’s office.
Exercise of all the freedoms safeguarded by the Constitution is brazenly presented as evidence of crime and regarded, “without concrete evidence and proof,” as offences punishable by aggravated life sentences.
Most importantly, all the actions that are said to be a “crime” or presented as “evidence for a crime” fall under freedoms safeguarded in the Constitution.
What happens is perception manufacturing without any evidence or a proof — perhaps because there isn’t any. It is a juridical scandal.
In 2016, when I had already been a columnist for 20 years, I left Sabah daily to become the chief columnist for Star. I remained on that job until 2012.
I was phoned many times by the president, prime minister, ministers, deputies and senior bureaucrats of the time and accompanied them on numerous official trips as an official invitee.
Municipalities, too, were among my most frequent contacts.
My communication network included people from academia, media personalities, artists, writers, the literati.
I have been a writer for 49 years and an academic for 30 years and as such, in my communication records throughout the past 10 years, no one is missing. In fact, one would see for a fact how wide my “social network” is if my entire communication records were listed.
One would also see that many members of today’s government (including the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and ministers) are also on the list of people I have had phone conversations with.
It is evident that attempts to invent crime and criminality on the basis of professional and then perfectly legitimate communications with 9-10 people by entirely disregarding other parts of my social life are a major stretch that has nothing to do with legal and judicial norms.
It is another manifestation of the decaying metabolism that I described earlier.
All the phone conversations with the nine people cited in the indictment are conversations that were made out of the necessity of being in the same professional and, by extension, the social network that I described above.
When I look at the HTS records, I see even the messages sent on New Year’s Eve are included in the list.
I cannot find words to describe the effort to create evidence for the “putschism” accusation out of obviously congratulatory messages that were sent on the New Year’s Eve or other holidays.
If we look at these nine people;
- Önder Aytaç (lecturer and Vice Dean of the Police Academy)
- Hidayet Karaca (TV executive who, as is known, has been in prison since 2014; date of the last known communication is 2009)
- Harun Tokak (president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation)
- Alaeddin Kaya (Star daily financier; the date of the only one phone conversation is 2008)
- Halit Esendir (Zaman reporter; two text messages in 2009)
- Mustafa Yeşil (President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation)
- Ali Bayram (Businessman; one conversation in 2010)
- Cemal Uşak (Executive of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, a member of the [ruling] AKP’s wise men council; one conversation in 2010)
- Mustafa Muhammet Günay (TUSKON business group executive whom I don’t know; record of one conversation in 2010)
The period in which these conversations took place also coincides with the period when my phone was tapped by [National Intelligence Agency] MİT under a false name and with a judge’s order.
They have records of all the conversations and nothing that can constitute a crime has been found in them.
Even though I filed complaints against the judges who authorized the telephone tapping, the [Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors] HSYK has protected them. But these judges who unlawfully ordered the phone tapping were subsequently prosecuted and sentenced for FETÖ/PDY links.
Leaving aside the unlawfulness of the attempt to retroactively criminalize some actions, disregarding the constitutional norms, it is surely a noteworthy talent to try to invent a crime and demand aggravated life sentences out of limited phone conversations that I had years ago for professional purposes with people who were in contact with coup plotters.
Though not a legal one, it is obvious that it is a very special talent particular to the interesting time in which we are living.
And the one-dollar bill allegation:
“A total of six (6) one-dollar bills have been located during a search of the suspect’s residence; five of the one-dollar bills were found in the drawer of his study together with other foreign currency, while another dollar-bill of (F) series was found inside a drawer chest in a hall at the suspect’s residence and that this dollar bill was preserved in a special place separately inside a red wallet.”
Some of the dollar bills are in a foreign change box, while one is inside a drawer chest in a hall, in a separate, special place.
A separate, special place: the wardrobe in the hallway!
An old, torn one-dollar bill forgotten in an old, red women’s wallet inside the wardrobe.
So I am a putschist, right?
The date of the coup attempt is 15 July. The date of my arrest is 10 September.
Nearly two months later.
On the night of the coup, I was eating fruit on the balcony with Ahmet Altan. And in the morning of 10 September, when I was arrested just before an Eid holiday, I was again at home.
Throughout those two months, there was so much hype about this whole issue of one-dollar bills and the police found one-dollar bills in my house. Today, they would have found them again. I am not a criminal; I consider destroying them as beneath me.
I see that on page 48 of the indictment, discussing the issue of keeping what was alleged to be “incriminating evidence” that were made the basis for arrest as a result of manufactured perception [as part of a different case], the prosecutor cites a Court of Appeals ruling, which concluded that “it was not considered to be in line with the everyday order of life that [the suspect] kept the incriminating USB at his residence, in an empty drawer where it could be very easily spotted and found, even though he was aware that several people’s homes had been searched as part of the investigation that began … years ago and many had been arrested.”
Then, what is different about the old one-dollar bill that was found in my house and presented as a ground for my arrest two months after the coup attempt?
I also see that on page 16, the indictment rightly mentions the “presumption of innocence” and “confidentiality of the investigation.”
My arrest was immediately used to discredit me publicly, just like during the “defamation” campaign.
And as soon as I was taken into police custody, it was leaked to the press that a one-dollar bill was found in my house and that I am a FETÖ member, in an investigation that is supposedly confidential.
What happened to the principle of presumption of innocence, the right to be protected from injury to reputation and the confidentiality of investigation? I would like to ask the same question to you, Honourable Court, too.
Legal provisions and principles do exist, but for whom?
There was also the principle of “equality,” the one that happens to be a constitutional right, wasn’t it?
The indictment states that these one-dollar bills are handed to “members of the [terrorist] organisation,” including even the new recruits at the entry level who are called “students.”
According to the indictment, I am not a “member of the organisation.” Since a university academic for 40 years cannot be treated as a newly joined “student,” it is useful to move away from the self-contradicting indictment and talk about the facts.
I have in my house foreign change from currencies of 40 different countries, not just dollars. I have been to almost every corner of the world to attend conferences and other events I have been invited to. There is almost no empty page in my passport to put new stamps on.
These insufficient and even comically ludicrous presumptions are such hollow allegations that they cannot be accepted as evidence even if there were a crime.
The AKABE Foundation allegation:
Police officials who were understood to be members of the terrorist organisation conducted an investigation into executives of AKABE Foundation as part of the Selam-Tevhid probe but I was not subject to any investigation even though I attended a conference at the foundation upon an invitation. So, I am a putschist…
Believe me it would have made more sense if I were told “we don’t like your opinions, we got you fired and prevented you from working for any newspaper but as we saw it didn’t work, we decided to lock you up.”
AKABE Foundation is a legal institution and I am an intellectual, a writer, journalist and a lecturer.
I am regarded as an independent intellectual and known for my secular, democratic and liberal views.
It is, therefore, extremely natural and normal for me to receive invitations from people of all views. The conference at AKABE is one of the hundreds of conferences that I was invited to and attended. Nothing more.
Leaving the meaninglessness of the allegation aside, attacking me with such an accusation ends up looking like putting me in a dress that does not fit.
The judges who ordered the Selam-Tevhid investigation and were later imprisoned for illegally releasing imprisoned suspects in another case and charged with FETÖ membership, were also the judges who had authorized the unlawful tapping of my phone under a false name.
How can there be any connection between me and them?
On page 21, the indictment does state that judges Mustafa Başer and Metin Özçelik, who ordered the unlawful tapping of my phone, have direct connection and links with FETÖ/PDY members. It is known that these judges are currently imprisoned.
So, judges of the Selam-Tevhid investigation order the tapping of my phone under a false name in violation of the relevant laws and procedures, I go to courts and take my case to the HSYK when this is exposed – and somehow the judges are protected every time but I don’t give up on my legal battle and keep filing complaints – and eventually I end up on the same side as these FETÖ suspects.
Why, to what end, and in expectation of what?
There is no explanation. And how can there be?
As is the case with rest of the section of the indictment that concerns me, there is no offence but there is a formal charge.
There is no evidence but there is the well-known opinion of the prosecution.
And another myth:
My column entitled “The meaning of Sledgehammer,” which was published in pro-government Star daily on 17 December 2010 when I was its chief columnist.
I have not been subject to any criminal investigation for any of my columns, including this one.
It is nothing but a juridical scandal to go back six years and try to invent an offence retroactively in contravention of all legal norms, including the Press Law provision that states any case regarding crimes committed via press must be launched within four months after the publication.
This allegation confirms once again this juridical scandal that is characterized by grave logical fallacies, contradictions and inconsistencies.
I am a journalist. And this article is a further confirmation that I have defended democracy, the rule of law and human rights against military and civilian tutelage throughout all my life; it is a proof of my principled and unwavering stance.
In 2010, the Sledgehammer case was the most debated, most closely followed case in the country.
Was I, the chief columnist of a national daily, supposed not to discuss the case when the entire media was following it and the prime minister of the time declared himself as the prosecutor of the case while the main opposition leader as the lawyer for the defendants?
I would like to give you a list of newspaper headlines on the day I wrote that article. Please have a look;
- December 17, 2010, Yeni Şafak: “Sledgehammer assembly”
- December 17, 2010, Sabah: “30 generals at Sledgehammer trial. I am excused, I am in Silivri”
- December 17, 2010, Hürriyet: “Sledgehammer queue”
- December 17, 2010, Star: “Sledgehammer assembly”
- December 17, 2010, Güneş: “I would have shot myself in the head”
The case continued to make headlines in the following years;
- September 22, 2012, Sabah: “Coup plotters convicted in civil court for the first time in Turkey. Long live democracy”
- September 23, 2012, Sabah: “I cannot say Sledgehammer is not fair” (former Chief of General Staff Hilmi Özkök)
- September 22, 2012, Star: “Turkey punishes coup for the first time at the hand of civilian judiciary. And coup gets convicted”
- September 22, 2010, Yeni Akit: “They were hit by Sledgehammer”
- September 23, 2012, Star: “Golden swords returned”
- September 23, 2012, Yeni Şafak: “Democracy wins”
I start my column dated December 17, 2010 by saying that “a coup attempt is put on trial in Turkey for the first time.”
I emphasized the significance in terms of the “rule of law” of such a development for a country in which [military interventions of] 1960, 1971, 1980, 28 February  and 27 April  could not be tried and “the rule of law” is disregarded.”
The prosecution, on the other hand, is in an effort to present this as a manifestation of the “secret ideology and strategy of the terrorist organisation.”
We are, again, faced with the well-known opinion of the prosecution.
But what the article has to say is an assessment that, “it is as if we are learning for the first time that coup is a crime and that military officers may face trial if they get involved in criminal affairs,” and an expression of regret that, “we could not break free from the 12 September [1980 coup] regime for 30 years.”
I repeat; I am a journalist, a writer.
As stipulated in the Constitutional Court rulings, “expecting journalists to act like a prosecutor who is obligated to prove validity of a statement would impose an excessively high burden of proof.”
Today, it is claimed that this case was a “conspiracy.”
If there is a conspiracy, those who should be held to account are the prime minister, justice minister and defence minister of the time. Not Mehmet Altan, who promoted an advanced and genuine democracy throughout his life and is today being subjected to this unjust trial and deprived of his liberty and all his constitutional rights for this reason.
In addition, the Sledgehammer case is still continuing. The indictment states, on page 51, that it has been appealed. What is the problem then?
And Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, in a statement dated 9 October 2016, said the “Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases were real to the core.”
A court ruling that is yet to be finalized and an article written years ago.
A journalistic activity.
No criminal element involved.
So, what do we have then? That same, famous subjective opinion that lacks a legal basis.
There is an effort to associate me with the 15 July coup attempt out of this ever-vibrant eagerness to invent a crime.
It is as if the laws require the presence of an “offence-prosecutor’s opinion link” rather than an “offence-evidence link.”
My article “Turbulence” that was published on my personal website on 20 July:
According to the indictment, I wrote this article to disguise myself because the coup attempt failed.
Honourable Judges, I am the son of Çetin Altan.
My father made us memorize this piece of advice: “what you would say most quietly should be what you would say in Taksim Square.”
I am right; I committed no crime.
I have nothing to hide, nothing to be afraid of.
I have only written whatever I’ve wanted to write.
When people read my articles, they understood precisely what I meant to say.
The only exception so far has been the prosecution that read these two articles of mine cited in the indictment.
The prosecution chose to infer meanings that do not exist on the basis of subjective feelings, instead of understanding whatever is to be understood from my writings and verbal comments.
For some reason…
I am here on trial today facing three aggravated life sentences because I am not afraid, because I am not intimidated, because I challenge parroted ideas, because I am not a hired pen, because I have never given up on my struggle for freedom, democracy and the rule of law and because I stood up against all sorts of authoritarianism and tutelage.
What I discussed in my article entitled “Turbulence” is still the reality of Turkey and it contains views in line with those I have been voicing over the years. Here is what I wrote in it:
“Naturally, one of the subjects that raises the highest level of curiosity and that is most talked about is the developments inside the Turkish Armed Forces.
People are trying to understand what is happening.
The government immediately blamed Friday’s violence on “FETÖist” putschists but the picture that emerged later was so comprehensive, so large and so high-level that everyone was surprised.
Date of the article is 20 July 2016.
The date is 7 March 2017, and a columnist writes the following: “Unfortunately, there was broad high-level participation in 15 July. Those non-FETÖ putschists joined this military coup out of their enmity towards Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and partly as a result of the disgraceful putschist mentality that has persisted until today since 27 May . Of course they are traitors, too, just like all putschists.”
As you see, the content is the same but I am in prison, charged with the same crime as the putschists who dropped bombs on the Parliament…
Coming to today, we now see media reports about a Major identified as O.K. who went to the MİT headquarters on 15 July to inform on the coming coup attempt, his statement at the prosecutor’s office, and relevant camera footage, which has all surfaced lately.
Articles and reports about this matter are coming out almost daily…
People are talking, writing about this development for days, aren’t they?
Aren’t we all trying to understand what happened?
And this is exactly what I wrote about: Developments within the TSK [the Turkish Armed Forces] that we do not understand; the broad, extensive and high-level picture…
This is how my article concludes:
Every step away from democracy and the rule of law will worsen the turmoil and danger facing Turkey.
The only way to bring peace and security to Turkey is to embrace democracy and the rule of law. I hope political decision-makers will realize this fact.
This is the sole fact, the sole truth.
I never gave up on my struggle for democracy and the rule of law, I am not giving up on it now and nor will I ever do so.
Whether military or civilian, I have always stood up against every kind of coup and tutelage. I have spent my whole life for this struggle.
I am not going to surrender my spent life and my struggle to oppression, unlawfulness and intimidation.
Your Honour, Honourable Court;
I am tried and have been held in prison for more than nine months for my thoughts and opinions in my country, where freedom of thought and expression is said to exist.
The indictment presents the “feeling” of the prosecution that I am a putschist, not the evidence that is required but apparently cannot be found.
And I say, “No. I am not a putschist and under no circumstances can I ever be.”
I want this shame, this scandalous cruelty that is the accusation of being a putschist tied to an “Islamist terrorist organisation” on the basis of the “opinion of the prosecution and perception manufacturing” rather than the “law” to end, and my liberty and my constitutional rights as an individual to be given back.
Your Honour, Honourable Judges,
This land has a long history of oppressing writers, intellectuals, poets, artists, painters.
In Silivri, I came across [Turkish poet and playwright] Necip Fazıl’s book, “Müdafaalarım” (My Defences), published by Büyük Doğu Publications in 1969.
This is what he has to say about accusations against him:
“Both lying and senselessness, both prejudiced grudge and ineptness, both distortion and delusion; which prosecutor in the whole world has been bestowed with them all? (Page 180)
And here is what he says about the indictment:
“They don’t know that the extraordinary upon extraordinary prosecutors of the extraordinary courts of the most horridly oppressive eras of history are dishonourable to the extent of fabricating documents when necessary but timid to the extent of fabricating law and logic.” (Page 191)
Necip Fazıl says these in relation to the Malatya case in 1953, the very year I was born.
64 years have passed since then.
This time those who call themselves his students are in power.
And still there is oppression.
It seems that this oppression is the only fact of life that has remained unchanged over all these years…
Thank you for your patience.