Sanem Altan, the daughter of Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan who has been sentenced to life in prison for allegedly “violating the constitution,” said in an interview to Deutsche Welle (DW) that the verdict is a political decision aimed at Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s opponents
Stating that there is a very simple explanation for the verdict for both his father and his uncle Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist Mehmet Altan, Sanem Altan has stated that “The decision clearly tells us that Turkish courts do not need evidence to convict someone, and that anyone can be jailed — even sentenced to life in prison. The sentence shows that the rule of law is disappearing, it shows how rotten it has become and how it has been transformed into a matter of personal interest. It is very clear that the decision is aimed at Erdoğan’s opponents. Therefore, I find the decision to be both reprehensible, and at the same time laughable. Nevertheless, it does not make me especially sad, surprised or even fearful.”
Saying that she visited her father on Friday after the court proceedings Altan stated that “When I saw him, he told me something wonderful: ‘This verdict has made us the most popular prisoners in the world. Because the world is watching the farce that is taking place here.’ The whole world is interested in such injustices. If authorities want to destroy opponents — as my father says, life in prison really means ‘die in prison’ — they have done just the opposite. These prisoners are now in the international spotlight. It is the most senseless strategy I have ever seen. One needs a certain amount of intelligence to commit evil acts, and it seems they don’t even have that.”
“The state of emergency has prohibited me from seeing my uncle (Mehmet Altan) for the last 18 months. As a niece, I am not allowed to visit him. But his wife and his lawyer tell me that he is doing very well,” said Sanem Altan and added that “Since my father and uncle have been allowed to see each other, I have also gotten news about him from my father. My uncle has been strong throughout this ordeal as well, especially since the whole world found out that he still hasn’t been released despite a Turkish constitutional court order to do so. Ahmet and Mehmet Altan are imprisoned but they are more relaxed than people on the outside.”
Answering a question on recently released German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, Sanem Altan told Deutsche Welle (DW) that “I just laughed and pondered the colossal stupidity of my opponents. By announcing both decisions on the same day, they simply made it clear that there is no justice in Turkey. While TV screens were filled with news of Deniz Yücel’s release yesterday (on Friday), the crawler at the bottom announced that a new indictment was being prepared in an attempt to jail him for another 18 years. Brilliant! Deniz is set free and two more journalists are sentenced to life in prison. And people have the gall to say that we have an independent justice system in this country. Deniz, Ahmet … the names don’t matter. I was truly happy that Deniz was set free. But the one thing that connects his release and my father’s sentence is the fact that justice in Turkey is controlled by the presidential palace. I think that is clear for all to see.”
She added that “I think that each and every one of those journalists are a bargaining chip for the Turkish government. My father, my uncle and all of the other journalists are not sitting in Turkish jail cells because of legal decisions, but rather political decisions — and their release will also be a political and not a judicial decision. They will be part of future negotiations. That is the way things work, and that is what the Turkish government’s stance on the matter is. Deniz Yücel was also part of an agreement and I think it is wonderful that he was released and can be with the people he loves.”
İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court in the Silivri Prison Complex has given aggravated life sentences on Friday for prominent journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak; two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper: brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı; and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 241 journalists and media workers are in jails as of February 16, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 208 are arrested pending trial, only 33 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.