Turkish opposition leader calls on top court to push for implementation of journalist ruling

Main opposition CHP chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Tuesday called on the Constitutional Court to push for implementation of its decision on two veteran Turkish journalists.

The Constitutional Court had ruled on Jan. 11 that jailed journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay be released, saying their rights had been violated. But İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts on the evening of the same day refused to comply with the order to release the journalists.

“You [Constitutional Court] are not the court of the people. If you were, you would ensure that your decisions were implemented, or you would resign. The mouth of the Constitutional Court has been taped shut. They can’t raise their voices,” said Kılıçdaroğlu during a CHP party group meeting at Parliament.

Under the Turkish Constitution’s Article 153, all Constitutional Court rulings enter into force immediately and are binding for the legislative, executive and judicial branches, including the administration and officials.

Turkey has fallen to 101st place out of 113 countries in the World Justice Project’s 2017-18 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of adherence to the rule of law.

Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University and a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government, and Alpay, a veteran journalist and columnist for the now-closed Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, were jailed in a crackdown on media after an abortive coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

The two are charged with membership in a terrorist organization, abetting a coup against the government and attempting to destroy the constitutional order. Prosecutors also accuse the suspects of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of having masterminded the putsch. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Mehmet Altan was arrested along with his brother Ahmet Altan, a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the closed-down Taraf daily, on charges of sending “subliminal messages” to coup plotters in a TV program on July 14, a day before the coup attempt.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 245 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 24, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 218 are arrested pending trial, only 27 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. (turkishminute.com)

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