ECtHR to take up journalist Alpay’s case with priority

Veteran journalists Şahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan, who were columnists for now-closed Zaman daily, were arrested as part of the post-coup witch hunt in Turkey under the emergency rule.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to examine an application filed by jailed journalist Şahin Alpay’s lawyers for the release of their client on a priority basis, according to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Tuesday.

Alpay, a 73-year-old columnist from the now-closed-down Zaman daily, is among the dozens of journalists who were jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15.

This is the first time that the ECtHR has decided to examine an application from Turkey with priority since July 15.

Alpay was detained on July 27 in an operation that targeted journalists from the Zaman daily on the grounds that they were linked to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding the failed coup attempt. He was subsequently arrested on July 31 and sent to Silivri Prison.

In the meantime, the personal assets of Alpay were also seized by the government.

Alpay’s lawyers have many times objected to his imprisonment and said their client was not physically fit to stay in prison; however, the court turned down their requests for the release of Alpay, saying that he is receiving the necessary treatment in prison.

Following this, Alpay’s lawyers applied to the ECtHR on Feb. 20 demanding his release on the grounds that court decisions both for the imprisonment of Alpay and for the continuation of his incarceration were unfair and because his health problems pose a risk to his life in prison.

Alpay’s lawyers also asked the ECtHR to give priority to the journalist’s case. Twelve days after filing their application, the lawyers received a response from the court on March 3 saying that the court agreed to take up the journalist’s case on a priority basis based on the 41st article of its bylaws.

Stockholm Center for Freedom, an advocacy group that monitors rights violations in Turkey, issued a report on March 1, 2017, saying that the number of jailed journalist has reached to a new record of 200 with Germany’s Die Welt, Deniz Yücel being among new arrestees. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

The failed military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

In the currently ongoing post-coup purge, over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of March 1, 93,248 people were being held without charge, with an additional 46,274 in pre-trial detention.

A total of 7,316 academics were dismissed, and 4,070 judges and prosecutors were purged over alleged coup involvement or terrorist links.

In addition to Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, over 180 media outlets have been closed by AKP government last year. (SCF with March 8, 2017

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