Turkey: Ahmet and Mehmet Altan denied access to lawyers

On 10 September, celebrated author and journalist Ahmet Altan and his brother, academic Mehmet Altan, were arrested and detained by the Turkish state for questioning. On this, their fourth day in custody, they have still not had access to their lawyers nor have they been given any formal statement of charges.

Charges leaked to the press by the prosecutor include ‘giving subliminal messages in favour of a coup on television’, the night before the failed insurgency of 15 July; in fact, they were warning the politicians about the likelihood of such an attempt and standing against it.

Ahmet Altan also remains on trial for ‘leaking state secrets’ – a reference to a series of stories run by Taraf, the liberal newspaper of which he was editor-in-chief from 2007-2012. The newspaper was closed by the government immediately after the coup.

Ahmet Altan is one of Turkey’s most significant authors and journalists, who throughout his career has consistently championed free speech, liberty and truth. His novels have been translated into many languages and reached bestseller lists around the world. English PEN joins Canongate in condemning the detention of both Ahmet Altan and his brother, as well as the arrest of over one hundred other writers and journalists since the failed coup.

We also join with the group of almost two hundred prominent writers, Nobel laureates and publishers who have called for an end to the persecution of writers by the Turkish government, and for the immediate release of both Ahmet and Mehmet Altan.

Jamie Byng, CEO, Canongate, said

Ahmet Altan’s bravery and skills as a novelist, journalist and editor should be welcomed in any country that respects the importance of free speech, literature and a healthy, challenging media.  His wrongful detention along with other key writers in Turkey including his brother Mehmet is deeply worrying and completely unjustified.  Anyone who values democracy should support our call for their immediate release.

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN:

The detention of the leading novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan is an alarming development in the continuing crackdown since the failed coup in July. The lack of due process is also a cause of grave concern. The arrest of novelists and journalists, along with the purge of academic institutions, goes way beyond any legitimate investigation into the coup. Ahmet Altan and his brother the academic Mehmet, detained at the same time,  must be released immediately – along with all others wrongfully arrested.

Philippe Sands QC, trustee of English PEN, said:

The arrest of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan is an egregious affront to the rule of law, to the idea of liberty, and to the very notion of free expression. It is a signal of dark times, and it needs to be ended immediately and without condition.

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