Turkish court orders release of jailed journalist Ahmet Altan

Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP

A top Turkish court on Wednesday ordered the release of journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, who was jailed for his alleged involvement in a failed 2016 coup attempt, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Supreme Court of Appeals ruling came a day after the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) demanded the release of Altan, who has spent more than four years behind bars after writing articles critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Altan, 71, was arrested shortly after the putsch attempt as part of a purge of media organizations, and accused of supporting the uprising by “disseminating subliminal messages to the public.”

He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for trying to overthrow the government, a ruling that was later quashed by Turkey’s top court.

After the case was re-examined, he was sentenced to 10 years, six months in prison for “knowingly supporting a terrorist organization,” a reference to a movement Erdoğan alleges was behind the coup.

He has always denied the charges, calling them “grotesque.”

Altan was briefly released in November 2019 for time already served, but then almost immediately rearrested and convicted of new terrorism charges.

The Supreme Court of Appeals ruling on Wednesday overturned his conviction in the 2019 case.

He had turned to the ECtHR for help in 2017.

In its verdict announced Tuesday, the Strasbourg-based rights court found “that there was no evidence that the actions of the applicant had been part of a plan to overthrow the government.”

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