The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed outrage at the re-arrest of prominent Turkish journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan just days after his release from prison.

Altan, a veteran journalist and former editor-in-chief of the now-closed Taraf newspaper, had been freed from prison pending appeal on November 4 after spending more than three years in pre-trial detention on groundless terrorism charges.

But on Monday, November 12, he was again detained by police at his home in Istanbul after a court revoked his release following a request by prosecutors over fears that Altan might flee the country, despite the fact that he is subject to a travel ban.

The ruling sparked outrage and swift condemnation from human rights groups, other media freedom organizations and international bodies, including the European Union.

“This appalling decision to re-incarcerate after a week of freedom illustrates the cruelty of the Turkish judicial system that continues to persecute critical journalists”, said Oliver Money-Kyrle, IPI Turkey programme manager. “Ahmet Altan has already spent more than three years behind bars without prosecutors presenting credible evidence of a crime – a deep injustice that is now set to continue.”

Altan was originally arrested in 2016 alongside his brother, the economist and journalist Mehmet Altan, in the midst of a severe crackdown by Turkish authorities following a failed coup attempt. Both were arrested on allegations of sending “subliminal messages” the night before the coup and having links to the outlawed Gülen movement, which Ankara blames for the failed coup. Together with journalist Nazlı Ilıcak they were later sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”.

After the Supreme Court of Cassation overturned their convictions in July 2019, both Ilıcak and Ahmet Altan were re-tried and found guilty on a different charge of “assisting a terrorist organization” and sentenced to eight years and nine months and ten-and-a-half years in prison, respectively. They were released pending appeal on November 4. Mehmet Altan was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

“The decision to send him back to jail suggests the judiciary has once again bent to severe political pressure”, Money-Kyrle said. “The credibility of the Turkish judiciary has suffered another blow.”