Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan were detained on Saturday 10 September. Their detention has been extended for a further five days. The brothers have been accused of giving ‘subliminal messages’ to rally coup supporters in a television broadcast on the eve of the failed coup in Turkey, on 15 July. No charges have been made against them formally: the press has reported leaked information from the prosecutor suggesting that the charges will include ‘giving subliminal messages in favour of a coup on television’.
In statements released to their lawyers in Turkey, Ahmet Altan wrote:
This accusation will certainly go down in history. However it is hard to know whether it will be the history of law or the history of comedy.
We were taken into custody for having established a subliminal connection with the coup makers on a television programme, ie one that a human being could not consciously perceive.
To make such a claim about ‘consciousness’ makes as much sense as to claim we were speaking with aliens or could fly up to the night dressed as Superman or move mountains with the power of magnetism.
When the law is stripped of seriousness and intelligence, any form of words becomes permissible and any sort of nonsense possible.
Mehmet Altan wrote:
Our young and heroic prosecutor accuses me of having the superhuman power to deliver ‘subliminal messages’ – i.e. the ability to reach out directly to the subconscious. Were I truly to possess those powers, I assure him, I would have used them as matter of urgency to help Turkey become a democracy with the rule of law.
In that case, Turkey would not have spun off course into the dreadful impasse it now finds itself. Nor would I and others like me be in a situation that defies legality or logic.
Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan were finally allowed to see their lawyers for the first time on 15 September. Both writers are reported to be in good health and good spirits, though visibly losing weight. During the meeting, their lawyers were able to convey the support from celebrated writers and artists all over the globe, for which both writers were enormously grateful.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:
Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan have highlighted the terrifying absurdity of their detention in these courageous statements. We urge the Turkish authorities to release them immediately.
English PEN continues to call for their release.