The new applications were filed after lower courts refused to implement the court’s earlier rulings on Altan and Alpay’s pre-trial detention
The Constitutional Court decided to give priority status to new individual applications filed on behalf of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay after lower courts refused to implement its earlier rulings, which found that the journalists’ pre-trial detention amounted to rights violation.
In a decision communicated to lawyers for Altan and Alpay on February 2, the Constitutional Court also rejected a request to issue an interim measure to order their release from pre-trial detention.
The Constitutional Court ruled on January 11 that the rights of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, and Turhan Günay – who spent months in jail in the Cumhuriyet case before being released – were violated as a result of their pre-trial detention. But the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court and the 13th High Criminal Court, which oversaw the trial of Altan and Alpay respectively, rejected requests for their release based on the Constitutional Court ruling, saying that the Constitutional Court overstepped its jurisdiction by reviewing the evidence in the case file.
Lawyers for Altan and Alpay then filed new individual applications at the Constitutional Court after their objections to the decisions of the 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts were rejected by the Istanbul 27th and 14th High Criminal Courts as well. The application on behalf of Altan was filed by his lawyers Ergin Cinmen, Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu, Ferat Çağıl and Melike Polat on January 30, while Alpay’s application was presented to the top court by his lawyer Aynur Tuncel Yazgan on February 1.
The applications said that the lower courts’ refusal to release Altan based on the Constitutional Court ruling resulted in violation of their clients’ rights to fair trial and personal liberty and security. The lawyers also maintained that the pre-trial detention of their clients was politically motivated, as per Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The lawyers requested the court to issue an interim measure to order both journalists’ release.
Responding to the applications, the Constitutional Court said both applications were granted priority status given the “nature of the matter at hand.” On the interim measure requests, the court said the issues raised in the applications concerned the merits of the applications, meaning the matter cannot be decided at this stage.
Altan, along with his brother Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, is on trial on coup charges and is due to appear before the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court at the next hearing on February 12-16. Alpay, a 74-year-old former columnist for the shuttered Zaman daily, has been in prison for 1,5 years. The European Court of Human Rights is also reviewing applications filed on behalf of Altan and Alpay, along with other imprisoned journalists.
Judge Karakaş recused from journalists’ cases
In another development, the European Court of Human Rights judge Işıl Karakaş of Turkey was recused from the cases of Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay. M. Ergin Ergül will replace Karakaş to judge these cases on an ad hoc basis. The recusal of Karakaş and her replacement with Ergül took place under Rules 28 and 29 of the Rules of Court.