Jailed Turkish columnist Altan challenges: “If they show me a ‘criminal evidence,’ I’ll be in jail as long as I live”

“If they show me a ‘criminal evidence’ defined in today’s criminal legislation, I will be in jail as long as I live,” challenged Mehmet Altan, an economics professor at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissidents.

In an article published by P24blog on January 5, 2018, Mehmet Altan, who is also a brother of Ahmet Altan, a famous jailed novelist and former editor-in-chief of the now-closed-down Taraf newspaper, has challenged Turkish authorities and stated that “… political power does not want any criticism and wants to silence every contrary voice, although I have wasted my entire life against military coups and for a ‘Democratic Republic,’ without blushing I have been accused of participating physically in a coup by ‘using force and violence’ aiming at destroying the constitutional order and establishing a ‘theocratic state,’ and I have been demanded to be sentenced to aggravated life. Don’t laugh, I swear to God, this is exactly the case.”

Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, writer and journalist brothers are among 17 defendants accused of being members of the alleged ‘media arm’ of the Gülen movement. Politicised prosecutors have claimed that Altan brothers and other journalists tried in the case knew of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and allegedly conducted propaganda to pave the way for it.

As liberal democrat journalists and writers the Altan brothers are accused of ‘calling for the military coup to take place and of intimate ties with the putschists, as well as senior figures of the Gülen movement,’ by basing on no concrete evidences.

The their discussion together with jailed veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak about anti-democratic situation on a TV show on Bugün TV, which was closed by Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two days before the coup attempt as evidence. Defendants said the program did not imply any coup.

Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016 were accused of sending ‘subliminal’ messages regarding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on a TV show a day before the putsch. The prosecutor accuses the suspects of being linked to the Gülen movement and committing crimes on behalf of a ‘terrorist organization without being a member of it.’

The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The full text of Mehmet Altan’s article is as follow:

“When the democracy in Turkey thoroughly is lost, the dark clouds start to wander around our house also.

On March 12, 1971, in the following military memorandum, they kept tabs on my father’s house in the Basınköy District on the 28th of April, the anniversary of my father’s marriage with my mother, in the very early hours and took my father away.

Selimiye Barracks, Maltepe Armored Brigade and after a while, the period of persecution extending to the Sağmacılar Prison ended with the amnesty of the then President Fahri Korutürk.

The novels entitled to The Great Detention, Whiskey and the Little Garden, translated into different multiple languages, are the wailful children of those persecution years.

In the years of persecution, perhaps the only consolation as redemption was the fact that it conduced to very strong literary works to be born.


Instead of democratizing the republic permanently, clipping the wings of short-breathing democracy is an old-fashioned addiction that occasionally shows up.

This disease had recurred also on February 28, 1997 (military memorandum in Turkey, post-modern coup), and later, today as well…

I recently read that the generals of the February 28th, who were on pending trial for a long time, have been demanded to ‘aggravated life’ for the charge of ‘participation of destroying and overthrowing the government of the Republic of Turkey by force.’

I was very shocked, as I was one of the considerable victims of the February 28th period, in the opinion as to the accusation, the prosecutor demands ‘aggravated life’ for the charge of ‘overthrowing the constitutional order by using force and violence’ and “establishing a theocratic state” for me.

At first they demanded three times aggravated life, now they have shown mercy and reduced to one.

As I said, when the democracy entirely abdicates, the trouble starts dancing around us.


When the generals of February 28th tried to overthrow the Refahyol Government (Welfare Party and True Path Party), the rulers of that era were very angry with the libertarian people who objected to it.

When February 28 began to force my gates of liberty and life just like today; I was 11-year Sabah Newspaper writer, 3-year professor at Istanbul University, where I taught for 11 years. I had around 20 published books.

They had used andıç (memorandum based on the statements changed by military as a method of psychological war) exactly the way they do it in these days.

I would like to remind you that the mentality targeting me today is almost exactly the same with the very famous memorandum of February 28th.

In memorandum, it was written about us; ‘For the above mentioned journalists, along with reduction of public reputation and prestige, molding public opinion against them on the support provided to the terrorist organization…’

The generals of February 28, especially Çevik Bir and Erol Özkasnak, heavily pressurized on my boss and the administration for me to be kicked out of Sabah daily.

Kemal Alemdaroğlu, the rector of the university of that period, also speeded up to struggle with me.

I have to tell you right away; other than being imprisoned I had difficult and unpleasant times with serious victimization and limitations, but my right of writing had not been completely revoked, also I was not aimed for an incredible hostility such as ‘dismissing from the university’ at all.


I once wrote an article comparing the salaries of soldiers and teachers; I said that if we were to focus on ‘the age of knowledge,’ we had to give more importance and opportunity to education and educationists.

That writing caused trouble to me.

First my writings were suspended for a few days immediately. I received protest letters, as if they all were shaped by the same lathe.

Although it had been a long time, on a southeast tour made by opposition journalists, I saw that my writing was posted on the entrance board of the headquarters in Şırnak province.

Comparisons of wage salaries have been much more effective than any criticism of any kind, which is said to be; from that time on, military salaries were removed from the public salaries, where salary increments of public personnel were announced every six months; it was not kept in those lists again.


It had not been long time on those adventurous days, and the chief editor of the newspaper I worked with told me that the 2nd Chief of General Staff Erol Özkasnak threatened me ‘at the point of bayonet he would take me from front line to line,’ by making me swear rightly in a meal at his house .

In the Hasan Cemal’s book entitled Kürtler I had read that Çevik Bir wanted my boss to ‘kick me out’ after a long time.


However, my wish is always clear, on a February 28th anniversary, in the article entitled ‘Tomorrow is February 28th’ in 2006, I wrote:

‘I do not want to live in a theocratic state, under the military regime too…’

I want to live in a proper and decent country where fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed by the universal laws.

To sum up, being against military or civilian domination cost me dear in these lands.

We are now farther away from the country that I desire.

Or would I have been held in prison for 16 months with such a mind-blowing accusation like ‘plotting coup in order to establish theocratic state?’


As the time goes by, I was invited to the ‘Coups Investigation Commission’ of Parliament in 2012 as the victim of the February 28th, as well as an expert and for being the author of the book ‘The Economy of Coups,’ which I have formulated what should be done in order to prevent the coups.

I was honored with the Chairman of the Commission’s high praise and appreciation, with a comprehensive statement that the interested person would not regret, as an academician, I explained that the measures to be taken by preferring the international conditions instead of the pursuit of military coup and the problems that need to be solved. I summarized what I lived on February 28th.

Alas, it seems that, four years after that statement, political power does not want any criticism and wants to silence every contrary voice, although I have wasted my entire life against military coups and for a ‘Democratic Republic,’ without blushing I have been accused of participating physically in a coup by ‘using force and violence’ aiming at destroying the constitutional order and establishing a ‘theocratic state,’ and I have been demanded to be sentenced to aggravated life.

Don’t laugh, I swear to God, this is exactly the case.


Moreover, supposedly I used ‘force and violence,’ demolished ‘constitutional order’ and participated physically in a coup aiming to establish a ‘theocratic state’ by attending in a television program.

A year and a half ago, in that program, which was broadcasted every Thursday; Congress of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) gathered with a heavy heart by Meral Akşener, its effects in politics and the parliament until 2019, Law of Security, Public Order and Assistance Units (EMASYA, which grants the military the right to carry out operations against internal security threats without the consent of the civilian authority) published in the Official Gazette on the day of the program and “Turkey’s today” through a novel entitled ‘To Die is Easier Than To Love – Ölmek Kolaydır Sevmekten’ explaining the period of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki, a committee ruled the Ottoman between 1908 and 1918) were discussed.

Even if the prosecutors stubbornly try to ignore it, there is plenty of emphasis on the election in 2019.


The public prosecutors falsified the program by cropping and tweezing while transferring to the opinion as to the accusations, accused me of ‘plotting coup’ for a single sentence that does not contain any crime and demanded to be sentenced to aggravated life.

Right now, the Criminal Courts of Peace and the court we are on trial are still silent to this situation, making no voice to the restrictions of our freedom, helping the situation.


Let me explain.

It is a constitutional offense to ignore the constitutional order by laying away the legal ways stipulated by the constitution and creating a ‘de facto state.’

Whether it’s a soldier or a civilian, it doesn’t matter.

There’s a paragraph in that TV program that I explained about ‘There’s a de facto state in Turkey’ which was one of the issues on the agenda in that time.

‘… to assume taking over the state illegally …

If that state is going to continue to exist, this is a blindness and in Turkey there is another structure documenting all the developments (legislative, executive and judicial) more than the outside world. I mean, it’s not clear when it gets its face out of the bag, how it’ll get it.

… Because when you attempt to take over the state (legislature, executive, judiciary) you want to destroy the metabolism …

… You can not destroy them.

If so, then the state and society will disappear.

If this won’t happen, it is not possible to do it.’ 


Because the previous one was changed, in the indictment of the prosecutor who prepared ‘opinion as to the accusations’ by attending once in the trial, the explanation, which is against the ‘military and civil coup,’ first it was falsified, after tweezing it was reduced to one sentence and then it was shown as the most severe and serious ‘evidence’ for the ‘aggravated life sentence.’

I swear it is so.


Let’s read the ‘sentence,’ paying attention to the falsification and perception operation, and look together if you saw such an accusation and ‘opinion as to the accusations?’

‘… in Turkey probably there is another structure documenting all the developments more in the outside world. I mean, it’s not clear when it gets its hands out of the bag, how it’ll get it.’

Did you see the tweezing and falsification?

After that there is neither a ‘evidence’ nor a ‘fact’ nor a ‘concrete proof,’ there is just a hurriedly written scenario, unfounded and non proven accusations. Let’s read and see:

‘… stated that there is a military coup environment (where, how?) and with the connotation of the coup in the program the defendants had a conversation having subliminal messages (where, how?), within the scope of these discourses they threatened the government of Turkey and President (where, how?), declared that the coup attempt to be performed (where, how?), without having same ideology and concertedness with the terrorist organization it is not possible to know that the coup is to be performed (where is the evidence?) and to state this in such a way that the public perception would be shaped the day before (where is the evidence?)…’

There is no need for evidence, proof, or facts; as you see, pressurize, push; there is no need to even look at the whole paragraph, and no need even to transfer correctly the sentence tweezed without falsifying it.

There is no need for law or justice; there is a madness of that ‘he is bothering us, let’s find a way that we give ‘death sentence’, if not we give ‘aggravated life sentence’ or we silence for life-long.’

There is nothing to say, everything is clear, but I can say that; if they show me a ‘criminal evidence’ defined in today’s criminal legislation, I’ll be in jail as long as I live.

Until today, they did not show any ‘criminal evidence’ defined in the criminal code, they kept me in prison with printed papers and they pretended as if judging…

If this case doesn’t go this much insane; if mind, consideration, conscience and law didn’t evaporate, would I like to be judged with the same offenses committed by generals of February 28th?

As I said, when the democracy in Turkey thoroughly is lost, the dark clouds start to wander around our house also.”

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