Turkish journalists and academics Alpay and Altan demand equal treatment before the law

Zaman daily's columnists Şahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan were arrested in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Journalist and academic Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, who were imprisoned by Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and who have been facing multiple life sentences, have called upon their colleagues to support them to be treated on the principle of equal treatment before the law.

Alpay and Altan have also asked for help to set up meeting with their friends whom they would choose as it is a right to be granted for other prisoners to meet with people along with their family members. Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan are going to appear in court on Sep 18, 19, and 20.

According to a report published by Kronos News, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) head Turgay Olcayto, and TGC Deputy Secretary General Niyazi Dalyancı visited jailed journalists/academics Alpay and Altan in infamous Silivri Prison. Giving insight into the prison visit TGC head Olcayto stated that 150 journalists are condemned and detained. Olcayto pointed out that they demand the journalists to be released on conditions of trial without arrest.

“The obstacles to freedom of press and freedom of expression must be removed. Journalism profession is not to be seen as a crime. We continue to be in solidarity with our colleagues in jail. We visited Cumhuriyet daily writers last week, and we visited Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan this week,” Olcayto said.

Olcayto has also conveyed the remarks of Prof. Dr. Mehmet Altan during their meeting in the prison. Altan told that “I face multiple life sentences. I did not break the law. There is no crime that I have committed.” Altan also said that he want lawyers and authors to cover this topic as he calls upon people to watch their hearing and put support behind them.

Alpay and Altan are among the dozens of journalists who were jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15. Alpay, a 73-year old columnist from the now-closed Zaman daily was detained on July 27, 2016 in an operation that targeted journalists from the Zaman daily on the grounds that they were linked to the faith-based Gülen movement. Alpay was subsequently arrested on July 31, 2016 and sent to Silivri Prison.

Altan, a 64-year old columnist and famous academician, discharged from İstanbul University in which he served for 30 years, is awaiting for trial for supposedly attempting to bring down the government was arrested on September 22, 2017.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 275 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 16, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 250 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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