International rights groups including Article 19, PEN International and Index on Censorship will send representatives to monitor the first hearing in trial of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and others which will be held on June 19.
Ahead of the hearing, the said organizations released the following press statement on Friday:
On 19 June, the first hearing will take place in a trial concerning 17 defendants, including a number of journalists. Among the defendants are prominent novelists and political commentators, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak. The case is the first trial of journalists accused of taking part in last year’s failed coup attempt, and may shed light on how the courts will approach numerous cases concerning the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial under the state of emergency.
Representatives of ARTICLE 19, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, Norwegian PEN and PEN International will be attending the hearing in order to demonstrate solidarity with the defendants, and with media freedom more broadly in Turkey. The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the International Senior Lawyers Project are also sending observers to the hearing.
The charges against the accused are detailed in a 247-page long indictment which identifies President Erdogan and the Turkish government as the victims. Defendants Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak are charged with “attempting to overthrow the Turkish Grand National Assembly”, “attempting to overthrow the Government of Turkey”, “attempting to abolish the Constitutional order” and “Committing crimes on behalf of an armed terrorist organization without being a member”. The remaining defendants are additionally charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation”, in reference to the Gülen movement who the Turkish government accuses of having orchestrated the coup attempt.
The majority of those on trial are either currently in exile or have been held in pre-trial detention for almost 10 months. On 14 June, the European Court of Human Rights wrote to the Turkish government requesting its response to a number of questions to determine whether the human rights of seven detained journalists, including the Altans and Nazlı Ilıcak, have been violated due to the long pre-trial detention.
We believe the trial to be politically motivated and call on the authorities to drop all charges against the accused unless they can provide concrete evidence of commission of internationally recognisable criminal offences and to immediately and unconditionally release those held in pre-trial detention.
ARTICLE 19 has prepared an expert opinion examining the charges against the Altan brothers, at the request of their defence lawyers, which will be submitted to the court at the hearing. The opinion argues that the charges levelled against the Altans amount to unlawful restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
For more detailed information regarding the context for free expression in Turkey, please see a joint statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017.