ECtHR to announce judgment on jailed author and journalist Altan 4 years after his application

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will on Tuesday announce its judgment in the case of jailed author and journalist Ahmet Altan, four years after his application to the rights court.

Altan, born on March 2, 1950, spent his 71st birthday in İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison, where most political prisoners are held, without a shred of credible evidence that he has committed any crime other than to express critical opinions.

Ahmet Altan was arrested in 2016 with his brother, economist and journalist Mehmet Altan, and fellow journalist Nazlı Ilıcak on allegations of spreading “subliminal messages announcing a military coup” on television. They were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and interfering with the work of the legislature and the government.

The three journalists received life sentences in 2018, though Mehmet Altan was released after four months pending appeal.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned Ahmet Altan and Ilıcak’s life sentences in July 2019. The court acquitted Mehmet Altan due to a lack of evidence and ordered that Ahmet Altan and Ilıcak be retried on the lesser charges of aiding the Gülen movement, which is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.

Ahmet Altan was found guilty on November 4, 2019 and sentenced to 10 years, six months in prison. He was released pending appeal and was subjected to a travel ban.

Two days later the prosecutor appealed the court decision, claiming that Ahmet Altan posed a flight risk. The İstanbul court granted the prosecutor’s request on November 12, and Altan was re-arrested at his home that evening and sent back to Silivri Prison.

An advocate for the country’s minorities and a strong voice of dissent in Turkey, Ahmet Altan’s arrest and conviction received widespread international criticism from Nobel laureates, human rights organizations, authors and journalists around the world.

Despite his imprisonment, he continues to speak his mind. “You can imprison me but you cannot keep me here. Because, like all writers, I have magic, I can pass through your walls with ease,” Ahmet Altan wrote in “I Will Never See the World Again,” the 2018 book he authored in his cell and for which he was awarded the prestigious Geschwister-Scholl literary prize.

According to its press release, the ECtHR will also give its ruling on the case of Turkish journalist Murat Aksoy on April 13. Their applications have been pending before the court since 2017.

Aksoy was taken into custody a few weeks after a coup attempt in July 2016 over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement and was jailed for two years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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