Jailed Turkish journalist Şahin Alpay: Injustice I endure must come to an end

Şahin Alpay

Şahin Alpay, a jailed Turkish veteran journalist and columnist of now-closed Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, has said in a letter that “I am waiting for the injustice and my 18 months of imprisonment to end. I am addressing to common sense of the public and to the sense of justice.”

Şahin Alpay has sent a letter from notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul via P24 website to share his frustration over the non-fulfillment of the decision given by Turkish Constitutional Court for his release by lower courts in İstanbul and has stated that “I was disappointed when it was obvious that I would not be released. I was not expecting this. I had already done all the preparations, as if I was going to be released.”

Underlining the fact that “According to the Constitution, executive, legislative and judicial bodies, administrative offices, natural and legal persons have to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court,” Alpay said “Nevertheless, a decision of the Constitutional Court was not implemented for the first time in history and many respected jurists of Turkey interpreted this as a clear violation of the Constitution.”

The full text of Şahin Alpay’s letter is as follows:

“I was disappointed when it was obvious that I would not be released. I was not expecting this. I had already done all the preparations, as if I was going to be released.

On P24, in my letter dated December 25, 2017, I had mentioned about ‘the irony of my life.’ I said ‘I was jailed due to an unexpected outcome of my struggle for libertarian and pluralistic democracy that gives meaning to my life. There may be many ironies in my life, but that was ‘the irony of my life.’

Recently, one more irony came into my life. In the decision of the Constitutional Court, which was announced on January 11, 2018, it was adjudged that my imprisonment has violated my rights of ‘individual liberty and security’ and ‘freedom of expression and press,’ and the court commanded my release. Nonetheless, 13th High Criminal Court, and after that the authority to appeal the 14th  High Criminal Court rejected to comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court with the prompts they took from the spokespersons of the government. I am still in prison now. 

According to the Constitution, executive, legislative and judicial bodies, administrative offices, natural and legal persons have to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, a decision of the Constitutional Court was not implemented for the first time in history and many respected jurists of Turkey interpreted this as a clear violation of the Constitution. Rıza Türmen,  a former judge of The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was the one who explained the consequences of this violation in detail. (ref. Cumhuriyet, January 19, 2018)

My relatives, friends and former students may wonder how I perceive this latest irony of my life, what I lived on 11th of January.

When I learned of the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the situation I was in a false imprisonment, of course, I was delighted both on my behalf and on my colleagues in similar conditions. I was so happy that I would be able to join my wife, children and grandchildren.

I was disappointed when it was obvious that I would not be released. I was not expecting this. I had already done all the preparations, as if I was going to be released. I felt very sorry for the frustration of my family and my friends who are waiting with them. I have begun to worry that if the European Court of Human Rights were to make a violation decision, it would not be implemented either. We will wait and see.

From the comments made on the failure to implement the Constitutional Court’s decision, the one who caught my attention most was the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s. He said at a group meeting; “the guilty and innocent, the right and wrong are intermingled… If an innocent, who has no guilt and sin, is struggling with the slander of FETO, everyone who calls himself a human will get harm from that… it is an irregularity that justice institutions are losing blood with discussions and drowning with differences of opinion and interpretation. It is a big condemnation to make the oppressed and innocent moan…” (Cumhuriyet, 17.1.2018)

Mr. Bahçeli said to the journalists who asked him what he thought about the decision of the constitutional court about Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay and the failure of the application of that decision; “It is also necessary to think about “the hope of the two people inside, their expectation and their psychology.” (Reported by  Gülse Birsel, Hürriyet, 17.1.2018) In this respect, he paid attention to the human side of the problem of unjust illegal arrests.

How is my psychology? Since the beginning, I have a feeling that I am suffering a great injustice because I have been imprisoned for the accusation of “coup d’etat plotter and terrorist.” I am deeply saddened that although I am loyally pro-democracy I have been treated like this.

I have no guilt. I have no doubts that at the end of the trials I will be exonerated. I have only expressed the things I know to be true. I believe that freedom of expression in Turkey is under the guarantee of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

As I said in the second hearing on December 8, 2017:

I’m not a coup plotter. I’ve been a victim of military coups throughout my life. Throughout my authoring career, I have opposed military coups, coup attempts, military dominance; supported civil administration and the rule of law.

I’m not a ‘terrorist.’  Throughout my authoring career, I took a determined attitude towards violence and terrorism. I always defended peace and peaceful solutions.

I am not the ‘enemy’ of the AK Party government. I strongly supported at home and abroad AK Party , from 2002 until 2011, as long as they make reforms that took Turkey closer to the EU membership. 

In a 2009 article I wrote that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should receive the Nobel Peace Prize because of the steps that the AK Party government has taken to ensure domestic peace. After 2011, the criticisms I directed was not against the ruling AK Party, but against authoritarianism, and the single-man management.

I’m not ‘insurgent.’ Yes, after 2011, I criticized the AK Party government. But my criticism never aimed at making the government and the Turkish Grand National Assembly unable to do their jobs, as the prosecutor’s office claimed. On the contrary, I always expected the solutions from the AK Party group of the Grand National Assembly. My essays published and given as the evidence against me prove this. The Constitutional Court is the highest judicial body of the country, and I am relieved that they confirmed this. It is not the case that I violate the Constitution. The 13th and 14th High Criminal Courts dismissed the constitution by failing to enforce the binding decision of the Constitutional Court.

I am an ordinary citizen of the Republic of Turkey. Throughout my life, I have adhered to the ideal of my country’s being more civilized, more democratic and prosperous. My religious beliefs do not allow me to become a member of any religious community. My political beliefs do not allow me to be a member of any terrorist organization. The people who knows me is aware of these facts.

I was 72 when I entered Silivri Prison; I am 74 years old now. I have many chronic diseases. Some of them are at risk of cancer. On January 2, 2018 in Mehmet Akif Hospital, I had an angiography and it was determined that all my heart veins except one were partially blocked. New drugs were prescribed. It is also evident that my heart disease is worsened.

In the first hearing on September 19, 2017, 13th High Criminal Court sent me to the Forensic Medicine Institute to determine if my health was suitable for being in prison. Silivri State Hospital’s reported to the Forensic Medicine Institute could not be completed within the past 4 months.

The Constitutional Court commanded my release as there were violation of rights and there were no ‘strong evidence of crime.’ Of course the courts and finally the Court of Cassation will decide whether I am guilty or innocent. I expect my imprisonment to be ceased, making it possible for me to spend my diminishing years with my wife, children and grandchildren. I need my family to take care for me.

I am waiting for the injustice and my 18 months of imprisonment to end. I am addressing to common sense of the public and to the sense of justice.

Şahin Alpay

Silivri Prison”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 245 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 24, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 218 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 140 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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