On 21 September 2018, an appellate court in Istanbul rejected the defence motion to release writer Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazli Ilıcak among others from prison. During the next hearing on Tuesday 2 October 2018, the court is expected to pronounce a verdict. The final sentence could lead to aggravated life sentences against the six defendants of the appeal case, on the basis of groundless charges related to the coup attempt.
ARTICLE 19 continues to call for the immediate release of the detained journalists in the Altans’ trial, and for all charges against them to be dropped. ARTICLE 19 has monitored the trial since July 2017 and continuously expressed concerns over the observed violations of the defendants’ right to a fair trial. We call on international observers to continue closely monitoring the appeal stage of the trial.
With the exception of Mehmet Altan, released from prison on 27 June 2018, the other five defendants remain in detention, while the appeal is pending before the court. In March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Mehmet Altan’s pre-trial detention violated his rights to liberty and security, and to freedom of expression. In its judgment, the ECtHR also expressed “serious doubts as to the effectiveness of the remedy to the Constitutional Court in cases concerning pre-trial detention”, given that a lower court in Turkey previously refused to execute the Constitutional Court’s decision to release Mehmet Altan on this case. The appeal court’s decision to release him, while the case before it is still pending, gives effect to the Constitutional Court ruling that found that Mehmet Altan’s pre-trial detention violated his rights to personal liberty and security, to freedom of expression and the press.
The six defendants, including the writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, the academic and journalist Mehmet Altan, and the journalist Nazli Ilıcak, were sentenced in February 2018 to “aggravated” life sentences upon conviction of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” under Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code. The other defendants in the appeal case are Fevzi Yazıcı, formed design director of the Zaman newspaper, Yakup Şimşek, a former marketing manager at Zaman and Şükrü Tuğrul Özsengül, a former lecture of Police Academy in Turkey. The appeal case takes place before the Second Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice.