Jailed Turkish columnist Alkan: I wrote what I believe in, and I am honoured with this

Ahmet Turan Alkan

Prominent Turkish columnist and political scientist Ahmet Turan Alkan has said during his defence in the trial of the journalists, who used to work for Zaman daily which was closed by the government of the autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that “I wrote what I believe in, and I am honoured with this.”

Renowned academic and columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan took the floor during the hearing at Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Friday and said that “500 days stolen by force from a man’s life can never be undervalued. You are much better aware of me, everyone is aware. This case has not been opened as a work of crime described in the law. This case is a work of revenge and a political vindication. We testify as defendants due to this passion and grudge motive,” and asked that “Is it so easy to steal 500 days from the life of an ordinary person with such a light and unacceptable accusation?”

Ahmet Turan Alkan has replied his own question and continued: “I answer; yes, this is so easy in the Republic of Turkey, which is a state of law. Is it so cheap to play with my life, my reputation, my professional honor? Yes, it is, in here. Whoever spoke here said ‘Actually I was not going to write in this newspaper, probably I looked like its writer while I was passing by.’ No, I have written for 20 years. I’m the writer of the Zaman daily. I wrote until the trustee was appointed. I wrote things I believe. I do not have any engagement neither with Erdogan nor Gülen. I am honored with that.”

Alkan has continued his statement as follow: “It is the most meaningful inheritance that I will leave my children and grandchildren. Because I do not know if I’m going to leave the jail alive or not. Which sickness of the state was recovered by our victimization? What kind of public benefit is being obtained with my imprisonment?

“Maybe you do not know, we have been held in isolation for 500 days. We are treated as traitors. This is an official attitude. They want me to lose my sanity in prison. I am so resentful and offended to my state waiting for me to go off the rails. We know very well that you want to intimidate the opposing journalists through me and us. We are the best example of that the authors of the Zaman daily are abandoned.

“Nobody is able to defend us, we have been labeled as FETÖist (a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to smear the civic Gülen movement). They say that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will give a huge amount of compensation that I don’t know how much. What will I do with that compensation? In the eye of my state, I don’t have right as much as Reza Zarrab who is a persona grata deserving to be sent diplomatic notes for the sake of him until a week ago. Everyone knows and can not admit that the Turkish judiciary is under heavy pressure. This government party has not owned any of its political mistakes, it imputed all its sins to others.

“The responsibility of this victimizations arising from the unlawful trials will also remain on the bureaucrats, and we are all aware of it. The duration of this far-fetched case also depends on the life of the power that kept us here. We will be free when the political balance changes in the country. Because we are not criminals anyway. We are the figurants. Nobody expresses this honestly and that’s why I’m a little angry with my colleagues. The case will be left in the way that no one will touch, no one will take responsibility.”

Alkan continued his defence by saying that “I do not expect mercy from you. If you can only implement the existing laws, I do not expect anything else,” and added that “In this case, I do not think there is much distance between the judge and the defendant. We are under pressure, I believe the judicial bureaucracy is under a different type of pressure. As if the threatening looks of the big brother are roaming over this hall. I want to conclude with the words of a journalist: ‘There are such courts that it is better to sit in the defendant’s place than to sit there in the chair of the judge.'”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 7, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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