Turkey: European Court decision gives hope for thousands arbitrarily detained

Following long-awaited landmark rulings today by the European Court of Human Rights which found that journalist Mehmet Altan and columnist Şahin Alpay’s rights to liberty and security, and freedom of expression, had been violated, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Gauri van Gulik said:
“Today’s rulings are a resounding vindication for these two journalists and a damning indictment of Turkey’s justice system. That Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay were kept in jail on pre-trial detention for almost 20 months is not only unjust but also unlawful.
“This ruling cements what was already common knowledge: that they – like more than one hundred other journalists in Turkey – were imprisoned simply for doing their important journalistic work.
“Starting with Mehmet Altan, the doors of Turkey’s prisons must now be flung open allowing journalists, activists and human rights defenders including Amnesty International’s chair, Taner Kılıç, to walk free.”
On 16 March, a court in Istanbul ordered the conditional release of Şahin Alpay after the reasoning of the Constitutional Court ruling was presented to it, imposing a travel ban and house arrest. The judgment of the Constitutional Court in January, ordering Alpay’s release had initially been rejected by the Istanbul trial court.
Last month, Mehmet Altan was convicted for ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order’, and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, for nothing more than expressing his opinions.
The Constitutional Court ruled in January that Mehmet Altan’s rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression had been violated, ordering his release. An Istanbul trial court refused to implement the ruling, flouting the constitution, echoing the government’s criticism of the Constitutional Court’s judgment. The same court later convicted him to life imprisonment without parole on the basis of the same evidence which the Constitutional Court had considered insufficient to require his pre-trial detention.
Today’s European Court decisions are the first regarding the individuals detained in Turkey following the attempted coup in July 2016. Scores of journalists and other civil society figures in detention, including Amnesty Turkey chair, Taner Kılıç, are awaiting ECHR rulings in their cases, alleging that their arbitrary detention violates their rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression.
Amnesty International chair Taner Kılıç has been in prison detention since June 2017. He was released by the trial court on 31 January 2018, only for the same court to reverse its decision the next day. His trial for “membership of a terrorist organization” continues despite the lack of any credible evidence of his guilt.
For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca