Turkey: PEN welcomes Constitutional Court decision regarding journalists Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan

UPDATE (15 January 2018): PEN is deeply concerned that that last week’s landmark Constitutional Court ruling for the release of journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan has not been implemented and that they continue to languish in prison. We continue to call for their immediate release, and the release of the many other writers still detained in Turkey in violation of their right to freedom of expression. 

PEN welcomes the decision by the Turkish Constitutional Court (11 January) that the fundamental rights of journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan have been violated by their detention. Şahin Alpay, a columnist for the now-closed newspaper Zaman, has been jailed since 27 July 2016, while journalist and economist Mehmet Altan has been jailed since 22 September 2016.

Antonia Byatt, English PEN’s Interim Director, said:

English PEN welcomes the Constitutional Court’s ruling to release Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, both of whom have spent too long in prison already, simply for exercising their freedom of expression.  While we look forward to their imminent release, we nevertheless remain seriously concerned for the large number of journalists who remain in prison in Turkey, including former writer-in-residence Ahmet Şık and Mehmet’s brother, Ahmet Altan.  We will continue to call for their release.

Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International, said:

We hope that following this ruling, Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay will be promptly released to at last re-join their families and friends. This should set the precedent for the release of all those detained for having peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression, including Mehmet’s brother Ahmet. We continue to call for all politically motivated charges against journalists and writers in Turkey to be dropped.

These are the first rulings that the Constitutional Court has made involving fundamental rights violations since the state of emergency was declared following the attempted coup in July 2016. Tens of thousands of applications remain pending. The protracted delay in rulings on applications that relate to the deprivation of liberty, until today, mean that the Court has failed to comply with Turkey’s international and regional human rights obligations concerning fair trials.

Both Alpay and Altan are facing charges in relation to their alleged involvement in the attempted coup of July 2016. PEN considers the charges against them to be politically motivated and in clear violation of their right to freedom of expression. The proceedings in both men’s cases have been marred by due process violations.

PEN has been monitoring Mehmet and Ahmet Altans’ criminal court proceedings and has intervened, with others, in the Altans’ and in Sahin Alpay’s cases before the European Court of Human Rights concerning their detention.

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