Rome, February 16, 2018
As press freedom and freedom of expression organisations closely monitoring developments in the arrests and trials of journalists in Turkey we express our grave concerns with regard to the final hearing and verdict due tomorrow in the trial that includes, among its seven defendants, journalists and writers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak.
Our respective organisations of Article 19, Articolo 21, Associazione 100 Autori, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, and Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) have this week urged the international community to monitor the hearing in the trial against these defendants against whom a verdict is expect on Friday, February 16.
This will be the first sentence in a case against journalists accused of being linked to the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. If convicted, all three journalists may serve a life sentence on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” pursuant to Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Internationally renowned writer and the only novelist in prison in Europe, Ahmet Altan expressed his outrage whilst giving his defence on Monday by saying,
‘This sorry excuse for indictment lacking in not only intelligence but also a respect for law is too feeble to draw the immense weight of the aggravated life sentence it requests and does not deserve a serious defence.’
The defendants are accused of having sent “subliminal messages” in articles and on television in the days before the coup with a view to facilitating its success. This is the supposed evidence that links the defendants to those accused of organising the coup.
We are extremely concerned that our colleagues in Turkey face aggravated life sentences for such surreal allegations and also that the rule of law has not been upheld correctly in their cases.
A further serious failure to uphold judicial procedure was demonstrated in a different current case in which Mehmet Altan is a defendant. On January 11, 2018 the Constitutional court ruled for his and his co-defendant Şahin Alpay’s release on bail citing that their rights had been violated by way of pre-trial detention.
If these writers and journalists are convicted today it will surely demonstrate the complete breakdown in the rule of law in Turkey and imply that no-one will be safe from prosecution on the most spurious grounds.