Jailed journalist Altan: Lawlessness has spread like humidity stains over Turkey

Famous Turkish author and journalist Ahmet Altan, who was jailed in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and given an aggravated life sentence, said “Something like humidity stains has spread over Turkey: lawlessness.”

Turkish lawyer Mehmet Ali Başaran has shared his impressions on his visit to famous Turkish journalists and personalities in the jail. Başaran has also shared journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan’s statements in a post on his personal blog.

“He doesn’t take the decision seriously and looks unconcerned. He gets his strength from a hundred percent faith in his righteousness. He is hopeful for the not-distant future and believes that he would be acquitted,” wrote lawyer Başaran.

The full text of article on the blog of lawyer Başaran is as follows:

“I was in Silivri Prison No. 9 today with my lawyer friend Selim Murutoğlu.

We met Mehmet Altan, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Halis Bayancuk, Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Ahmet Altan. We saw Osman Kavala with his lawyer “in a very weird condition.”

I have to say a few words about the general situation and goings-on before writing my short review about them one by one: There is no judiciary in Turkey. The legal order is suspended. Moreover, the laws, especially the constitution, are not enforced. The judiciary is an unreliable mechanism for all sections except a small minority keeping it under control. While continuing to produce persecution in a stable manner, it went completely off the rails along with the latest version of emergency state (OHAL). The judiciary has neither a principle nor a constancy. It is not clear who is doing what. Nobody can predict anything. Safety of judiciary is not even a matter of discussion.

As an indicator that outlines the circumstances of the judiciary in Turkey, the huge Silivri Prison Campus standing in front of us is like a camp of extrajudicial executions, a cemetery of unlawful decisions. Thousands of people have been deprived of their freedom unfairly. There are severe captivities being experienced. Some people die, others become disabled, thousands of people have death throes in the official documents, thousands of people are left breathless, the mothers-fathers separated unjustly from their children, and orphaned children… They are not even worthy of statistical value, they are not made an agenda, unable to be made an agenda.

I don’t know when this age of unlawfulness seeming more unsustainable now in Turkey will come to an end, but it is obvious that a regulation and repair should be done urgently. Otherwise society will be trapped under this jurisdiction.

The case of Mehmet Altan, one of the names we interviewed, was an exemplary case. He describes his own judicial adventure as “a disgrace from top to toe.”

Despite the favourable decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, Mehmet Altan was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. There is no concrete evidence that the journalist, who has been held in prison illegally for 21 months, has committed a crime. There are some old-dated columns which have been forced to make “evidence.”

I believe he will be acquitted when the justice reaches Mehmet Altan’s file. A substantial amount of compensation will also be paid him.

We have seen Ali Bulaç sick, tired and resentful. He says that he has been treated like “one of the curses of the earth.”

While saying “ninety percent of those who support me are from leftists and secularists,” his frustration is seeing from his eyes.

“Alparslan Kuytul has helped me, God bless him,” he says.

Due to his 6 articles in Zaman daily, about 3 aggravated life sentence (plus) 15 years of imprisonment is demanded for him. It is not reasonable at all. The final decision is on May 10-11.

He writes a book about deism and atheism in prison, keeps a diary. Ali Bulaç, 67-year-old, with many health problems, a prisoner being tried unlawfully and inhumanely, he never deserves this treatment. Unfortunately, his colleagues, old friends, students who are in important positions today are watching the persecution of him.

While we were leaving he said, “I expect prayer from the Muslims.”

Ahmet Turan Alkan is also demanded life sentence (plus) 15 years of imprisonment. 15 of his old articles were chosen as “evidence”! We’ve seen him much more weaker than he looks on the screens.

He wrote a novel entitled “My Right Side” in prison. There is a profound determination and a dignified sadness on his face. We had a short conversation. When I was leaving, He used a sentence like this: “The law of His Majesty is judging us.”

I believe Ahmet Turan Alkan will be acquitted as well.

Halis Bayancuk is known publicly as Abu Hanzala. He’s been in prison for 11 months. There are 10 files about him.

Halis Bayancuk lives under a very severe isolation. He has to spend 24 hours alone in a solitary confinement cell. Only one day of a week he can meet a person who is judged from the same file for an hour at the gymnasium. He’s under a heavier isolation than any criminal who gets aggravated life imprisonment.

Selçuk Kozağaçlı, President of Contemporary Lawyers’ Association. He’s been in prison for 6 months. While Halis Bayancuk has the right to meet a person for only one hour a week, this tiny right has not been granted for Kozağaçlı. But he is so full of life, self-confident and eloquent person. We had the longest interview with him. It was very precious for me to meet such a colleague. He has a profound knowledge and sophisticated. He is a very friendly person who speaks on the level line with his partner.

I had written an article about Ahmet Altan’s defense in court and made a prediction on June 23, 2017. Altan’s defence “Judging the judges”, which is also reflected in the press, has been translated into more than 15 languages and published as a book in Italy.

The court, which was mentioned in quotes, sentenced Ahmet Altan to an aggravated life. He doesn’t take the decision seriously and looks unconcerned. He gets his strength from a hundred percent faith in his righteousness. He is hopeful for the not-distant future and believes that he would be acquitted.

Turkey’s prisons are full of authors, illustrators, poets, journalists. Ahmet Altan has already written a book inside. A literary-philosophical essay book. “Something like humidity stains has spread over Turkey: lawlessness,” he says.

We saw Osman Kavala while waiting for another interview. He was talking to his lawyer. There was also a guard in a quite narrow visiting room. There was a camera on the ceiling as well.

In the country, where there is such a scene, why do we need the state of law and the ministry of justice, for God’s sake!”

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 254 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down about 200 media outlets, including Kurdish TVs and papers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!