Rights groups urge Turkey to release journalists
International rights groups issued a joint statement, condemning the court decisions to refuse to release imprisoned journalists Altan and Alpay.
Two Istanbul courts on Thursday rejected the order to release jailed journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, hours after Turkey’s Constitutional Court said their ongoing arrest violated their fundamental rights.
The local courts said the journalists should remain under arrest until the details of the Constitutional Court’s ruling are published in the Official Gazette.
In a move that could be considered a reply to the local courts, the Constitutional Court’s official Twitter account has said the fully-detailed rulings are available on the top court’s website.
The top court’s decision has also drawn the government’s ire.
“[With the ruling], the Constitutional Court has gone beyond the limits set by the constitution and the laws, acting as a first-degree court by evaluating the case and the evidence,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ wrote on his Twitter account on Jan. 12.
“When ruling on individual applications, the Constitutional Court cannot act as a first-degree court, or an appeals court and it cannot rule accordingly,” he wrote, adding that the rulings amounted to “a bad and wrongful repetition of the Can Dündar ruling.”
Before the local courts refused to releases the journalists on Thursday, the lawyer Veysel Ok, who submitted the application to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Şahin Alpay, had said the top court’s decision could stand out as a milestone for journalist trials in Turkey.
“This ruling, which was the first application of its kind after the failed coup attempt, should set a precedent for all trials,” said Ok.
“It clearly states that news stories and opinion pieces cannot be used as evidence of a crime. I hope this ruling is the first step towards broader rights of freedom of expression in the country,” he added.
The two journalists, who have both been in prison for more than a year, were jailed in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.
Both Altan and Alpay have been accused of “links to terrorist groups” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” charges they have denied.
An Istanbul prosecutor sought in December last year aggravated life sentences for each of the six suspects in the case probing the “media wing” of the "Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ)", including, Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three other suspects currently under arrest who face aggravated jail terms for “violating the constitution” and “having prior knowledge of the coup.”
RIGHT GROUPS: JOURNALISTS SHOULD BE RELEASED
A coalition of leading international rights groups issued a joint statement on January 12, condemning a Turkish criminal court decision to refuse to release imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay despite a Constitutional Court ruling which had found that their detention amounted to the rights violation.
The statement, jointly issued by PEN International, ARTICLE 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, European Federation of Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute and Reporters Without Borders, called for the implementation of the Constitutional Court decision to free the journalists.
Around 145 journalists are in jail, according to the Turkish Journalists’ Association. International journalism groups say that Turkey is now the world’s largest jailer of journalists. (EVRENSEL DAILY)