Journalist sues judge for damages over belated release from prison

Prominent Turkish journalist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan has filed a lawsuit for damages against one of the judges who failed to provide his timely release from prison despite rulings from Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Turkish Minute reported, citing T24 news website.

Mehmet Altan was one of dozens of journalists who were arrested in Turkey in a crackdown on government critics in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Altan filed the compensation case against presiding judge of the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court Orkun Dağ, who forced the journalist to remain in prison for an additional five and a half months.

Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) took no action against Dağ due to his failure to observe the rulings of the Constitutional Court and the ECtHR about Altan. He was even later promoted and became a member of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court in January 2018 ruled that Altan’s right to freedom had been violated, while the ECtHR ruled in March 2018 that Altan’s right to liberty and security as well as his right to freedom of expression were violated during his imprisonment. Altan’s incarceration, however, continued until June 2018

He was later acquitted of the charges in a retrial.

During his trial, Altan was expelled from the university he was working for in İstanbul due to the charges he faced, and his demand to be reinstated was rejected by a commission set up by the Turkish government to look into complaints from individuals who were adversely affected by government decrees during a state of emergency (OHAL) declared following the coup.

Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu, who filed the compensation case on her client’s behalf, said she is sad to be acting as an attorney in a country where judges who contravene the constitution are protected.

“My goal is to keep a record of this arbitrariness,” said the lawyer.

The compensation case against Dağ will be reviewed by the Supreme Court of Appeals. If the court rules in favor of Altan, this will be the first time since the failed coup that a member of the Turkish judiciary will pay compensation for their failure to observe the rulings of the rights courts.

It has become frequent for Turkish courts not to act in line with the rulings of the Constitutional Court or the ECtHR. Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and prominent businessman Osman Kavala are behind bars despite ECtHR rulings calling for their release.

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