EU calls for fair trial of journalists in Turkey over Altans’ case

Famous Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan (left) and his academic/journalist brother Mehmet Altan have been in pre-trial detention on coup charges since September 2016.

The European Union (EU) has called on Turkey to respect democratic standards and practices and maintain a fair trial of journalists and writers in the wake of aggravated life sentences sought for some prominent journalists and writers.

An İstanbul court last Friday ruled for a continuation of the pretrial detention of media members including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who are being held as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

The İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court ruled in accordance with demand of the prosecutor and against the request for their release from jail by the lawyers of 17 suspects including Ilıcak, the Altan brothers, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek, who have been held in pretrial detention for 11 months.

Responding to a question from Turkish Minute, an EU spokesperson has said the EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country and as a member of the Council of Europe, is expected to respect democratic standards and practices.

“The right to a fair trial is fundamental to the rule of law, and key to ensure public confidence in the judiciary. While we understand the need for Turkey to bring the culprits of the coup attempt of 15 July to justice, any alleged wrongdoing or crime should, however, be subject to due process and the right of every individual to fair trial needs to be respected. The arrests of a large number of journalists and writers as well as the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation are a source of serious concern and have a grave impact on freedom of expression,” said the EU spokesperson, adding that the EU believes addressing these key concerns and challenges is a crucial element of a constructive and comprehensive dialogue between the EU and Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press’ (AP) Dutch photo journalist Bram Janssen was released after a brief detention in İstanbul while he was covering LGBTI Pride Parade on Sunday. According to a story in website on Monday, Janssen was detained while taking picturesof a police violence at the parade.

The story said RTL correspondent Olaf Koens, who is a friend of Janssen, confirmed that Janssen texted him and said he was released. “I got a message from Bram: ‘Yes, I am free. I was treated well’, he wrote. So it ended with a sizzle,” Koens said.

Following his release, Janssen tweeted “Thank you for all the messages of support. I was released last night and I’m doing fine.”

Despite a ban by İstanbul Governor’s Office for the LGBTI pride parade scheduled to take place in Taksim on June 25 for security and public order concerns, large number of people took to the streets in the center of İstanbul on Sunday. Turkish police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse parade participants and detained over 20 people.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 263 journalists are now in jails as of June 24, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 239 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with June 27, 2017

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