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27 September

Germany should raise concerns about jailed journos

HRW draws particular attention to jailed novelist-journalist Ahmet Altan

 
 
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a message ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Germany this week, saying that German government officials should use this visit as an opportunity to raise concerns about jailed journalists, human rights defenders and politicians in Turkey.
 
The message, penned by Hugh Williamson, director of HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Division, and posted on HRW’s website on 26 September, comes ahead of Erdoğan’s two-day visit in Germany on 28 and 29 September for bilateral meetings with both German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 
HRW particularly called attention to the situation surrounding Ahmet Altan, well-known novelist and former editor-in-chief of the shuttered Taraf daily, who has been imprisoned for two years as of 23 September.
 
Making a reference to the title of Altan’s latest book of essays published this week in German, Ich werde die Welt nie wiedersehen: texte auf dem Gefangnis (I Will Never See the World Again), the HRW message said Germany “should call for steps by Turkey to disprove Ahmet Altan’s words.”
 
Altan, his brother, longtime columnist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan, veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, and Fevzi Yazıcı, the chief page designer for the shuttered daily Zaman, along with two other co-defendants, were convicted in February of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.” The appeal process concerning the verdict is currently under way, with the final hearing scheduled for 2 October.
 
To read more about the first hearing before the appellate court, click here.
 
HRW also said that Erdoğan’s visit was an opportunity for both President Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel to convey “a clear message that it is not only German nationals in prison who matter, but also the fate of many of Turkey’s own citizens who are arbitrarily detained on politically motivated charges.”
 
According to P24’s list compiled using information available from open sources, as of 27 September, at least 174 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either serving a sentence or in pretrial detention.
 
You can read the HRW’s full message below. To access the original post, click here:
 
Given the present state of human rights in Turkey, the German government has come in for criticism over the elaborate plans for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey’s upcoming visit on September 28 and 29, including a state banquet. But  President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel should use the opportunity  to raise numerous human rights concerns, most pressingly the plight of the many journalists, human rights defenders and politicians arbitrarily jailed in Turkey.
 
One of them is the well-known novelist and political commentator Ahmet Altan, whose newest book was published in German this week. Its  German title is  “Ich werde die Welt nie wiedersehen: texte auf dem Gefangnis” -- “I will never see the world again: writings from prison.”
 
Altan, in prison for over two years, was among the first writers in Turkey to be sentenced to life without parole on the allegation that he encouraged the abortive coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. The evidence against him? His commentary and writings critical of the government, which have never advocated violence, insurrection or any criminal act, and witnesses who signed incriminating statements against him but were never even heard in court.
 
Human Rights Watch regards the case as entirely politically motivated and the charges without merit. Altan and other defendants in the same trial should be freed and their charges dropped. The verdict of the appeal in their case is scheduled for October 2. Another jailed defendant in the same trial, also sentenced to life in prison, is 74-year-old veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak. Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan’s brother, was given the same sentence but remains at liberty.
 
Both President Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel have the opportunity to convey a clear message that it is not only German nationals in prison who matter but also the fate of many of Turkey’s own citizens who are arbitrarily detained on politically motivated charges.
 
An improvement in German-Turkish relations should require their release from prison and an end to the Turkish authorities’ systematic violation of basic human rights.
 
Germany should call for steps by Turkey to disprove Ahmet Altan’s words “ich werde die Welt nie wiedersehen.”

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