17 free speech and rights groups issue joint statement ahead of next week’s hearing in Altans case retrial
Seventeen free speech and human rights groups issued a joint statement on 2 November 2019, calling for the release of imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak and their three co-defendants who face lengthy prison terms on terrorism charges.
The signatories of the statement, which include P24, ARTICLE 19, Freedom House, PEN International and European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), said no evidence was presented in the case that links the defendants to terrorism and called the ongoing violation of their rights “a damning indictment of the state of Turkey’s judicial system.”
The joint statement also underlined once again that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak’s applications have been pending before the European Court of Human Rights for almost three years, noting that a judgment from the Strasbourg Court on their cases was now “crucial.”
The full text of the statement is as follows:
Free speech and human rights organisations call for Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and other journalists to be released
Ahead of the second hearing in the retrial of Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and four other journalists and media workers, ARTICLE 19 and 16 free speech and human rights organisations call for all detained defendants to be released and for the charges to be dropped. We believe that the charges against Altan and the other defendants are politically motivated and the case should never have gone to trial. We believe that the new charges are also bogus, as no credible evidence has been presented linking the defendants to terrorism.
Altan and Ilıcak have been in pre-trial detention for over three years on bogus charges, first for sedition and now terrorism, following a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The prosecutor’s final opinion has been published ahead of the hearing on Monday 4 November, revealing that the prosecutor will ask for the judge to sentence significantly above the minimum required sentence for these offences. If the judge rules in line with the Prosecutor’s opinion, this will mean that the defendants will remain in detention during the appeals process which could take many more months. The on-going violation of their rights is a damning indictment of the state of Turkey’s judicial system, which has been placed under immense political pressure since the failed coup of July 2016.
We have serious concerns regarding the panel of judges overseeing this retrial. It will be presided over by the same judge who oversaw the first trial, which involved several violations of the right to a fair trial and according to the Bar Human Rights Committee, “gave the appearance of a show trial”. The same panel of judges also previously refused to implement the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights rulings that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated by his pre-trial detention, sparking off a constitutional crisis.
With the Constitutional Court failing to find a violation in the case of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak in May, we look to the European Court of Human Rights (the Court) for justice. In 2018, the Court found several violations of Mehmet Altan’s rights. The Court also said that it would keep the effectiveness of remedies before the Constitutional Court under review. Altan and Ilıcak have now spent over three years in pre-trial detention. If the judge rules on Monday in line with the Prosecutor’s final opinion, they will be condemned to an even longer period of unjustified detention. By January 2020, their applications before the Strasbourg Court will have been pending for three years. A judgment from the European Court of Human Rights on their cases is now crucial.
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Global Editors Network (GEN)
Index on Censorship
P24 – Platform for Independent Journalism
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
More information on the case and the retrial can be found here