Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan, who spent 132 days in jail in 2016 for displaying solidarity with the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper, has said jailed journalist Ahmet Altan is a victim of a bargain between the clandestine Ergenekon organization and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Prominent Turkish novelist and editor-in-chief of the now-closed Taraf newspaper Ahmet Altan was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for alleged involvement in a 2016 coup attempt against President Erdoğan and his government on Feb. 16, 2018 and an additional five years, 11 months in prison on terror-related charges on Feb. 28, 2018.
“[Ahmet Altan] greatly influenced Turkey with his pen. It is a gross injustice that he was victimized as result of a bargain between Ergenekon and [President] Erdoğan,” Erdoğan said in an exclusive interview with Bianet in Paris.
“No one can claim that Ahmet Altan and the other people in the same proceedings received a fair trial,” she added.
Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his journalist brother Ahmet were charged with giving coded messages on a television talk show a day before an abortive July 15 coup in 2016.
Nazlı Ilıcak, another veteran journalist, and two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper — brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı — as well as former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül were also given aggravated life sentences.
Regarding a recent debate about the appearance of an article by Ahmet Altan in the Cumhuriyet daily and following a management shakeup and resignations from the newspaper, the renowned writer said: “Cumhuriyet is finished. It endured well. We should be grateful for its endurance.”
Lambasting divisions among critics of the government, Erdoğan said, “When will we come together if not nowadays under this heavy oppression?”
Erdoğan also strongly criticized the recent oppression and ban targeting the Saturday Mothers, who have gathered every Saturday for years in İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square to ask the state to either find their disappeared loved ones or to find their murderers.
“This is one of the examples where the regime is showing its fascist face,” said Erdoğan, underlining that “the Turkish state’s treatment of citizens in the 1990s has been revived and in an even more brutal manner.”
“Turkey now has a one party, one man regime. We cannot actually say one-party regime because even the party has no function. The country is run by Erdoğan and a few people around him,” novelist Erdoğan said and added:
“From drug prices to cesarean procedures, from the football league to the opera and ballet, everything is run by the Erdoğan family. They control finances and the Treasury, too. What kind of democracy we are talking about?”
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Sept. 13, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 journalists who are living 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 some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)