The International Press Institute (IPI) today joined an international call on Turkish authorities to release Ahmet Altan, a prominent journalist and writer who has been jailed since 2016 over alleged links with the movement led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. Turkey has accused the Gülen movement of establishing a parallel state structure and holds it responsible for the 2016 failed coup attempt.

Altan today marks 1500 days behind bars, most of them consecutive. He briefly released in November 2019 only to be re-arrested after a week on separate charges.

Read the info and background of his case below prepared by the Turkish press freedom group P24, which is leading today’s call.

Journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan has been behind bars for over four years based on absurd, unfounded and constantly shifting accusations.

Altan was first arrested on 12 September 2016 for “sending subliminal messages evocative of a coup” and, after spending 12 days in a police cell, was imprisoned pending trial on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government of Turkey” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Over the more than four years that passed since then, first the bizarre accusation of “sending subliminal messages” disappeared silently, followed by the abandonment of the various coup-related charges that led to a guilty verdict and an aggravated life sentence, when the Court of Cassation ruled against the conviction. The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, which oversaw the original trial, complied with the Supreme Court’s decision and launched a re-trial, which resulted in another conviction, this time on the lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” and an exceptionally severe punishment of 10.5 years in prison. The judges also ordered Altan’s release pending the outcome of the appeal and Ahmet Altan was released from prison on 4 November 2019, after more than three years in pre-trial detention. Yet, he was re-arrested only eight days later, after the prosecutor objected post-verdict to his release.

Altan’s case has been pending for a year before the Court of Cassation for a review of his latest conviction. His application to the European Court of Human Rights, filed nearly four years ago, is yet to be reviewed.