European Court of Human Rights decides to evaluate Altan brothers’ plea

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 Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to evaluate the application of imprisoned authors and journalists Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, citing multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Independent journalism website P24 announced the decision on Friday, stating that the court would “fast-track” the applications of the Altan brothers, who have been in pre-trial detention on coup charges since September 2016.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has not yet evaluated an appeal filed by the Altans amid a surge in individual applications following a massive purge in the wake of a July 15 coup attempt.

The ECtHR normally requires that applicants exhaust domestic remedies before filing a petition, although two judges of Turkey’s Constitutional Court, also purge victims, are in pre-trial detention.

P24 quoted one of the lawyers of the Altan brothers, Veysel Ok, who said it was significant that this time the European court decided otherwise.

Along with tens of thousands of other purge victims, the Altan brothers have yet to see an indictment for an appearance in court. Both face allegations of coup plotting and undermining the government based simply on their columns and TV appearances. The Altans are accused of sending “subliminal messages” signaling the coup on a TV program during which they criticized the government.

According to Ok, the court might have refused to discuss the case, just as it did with the Mercan case, on the grounds that domestic remedies have not yet been exhausted. Instead, it agreed that the issues raised in the applications merited a swift consideration of the case.

The Altans are still waiting on applications lodged with the Turkish Constitutional Court on Nov. 8, 2016 for their release pending trial.

In January, Işıl Karakaş, a Turkish judge serving at the ECtHR, said that an increased number of applications from Turkey could block the work of the court, expressing hope that a domestic high court can resolve the complaints filed, especially those submitted after the failed coup on July 15 for severe human rights violations.

Up to 5,000 people have reportedly applied to the ECtHR, citing violations as victims of the purge in Turkey.

Karakaş said all they can hope for would be a national level decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The ECtHR had earlier refused to hear two cases, stating that not all domestic remedies in Turkey had been exhausted. However, Karakaş said that as far as the cases of two high court judges under arrest are concerned, an exception could be made since there is no way for them to file a complaint inside Turkey.

Applications from Turkey are currently on hold while the ECtHR awaits the exhaustion of domestic remedies.

In reaction to these comments, a human rights lawyer from Ankara University, Kerem Altıparmak, said in a Twitter message that the European court is making a mistake. “It should not prefer to freeze the applications, but render a leading pilot verdict,” Altıparmak noted. “Otherwise it will be too late,” the jurist warned the European court. ( Feb. 24, 2017

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