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23 September

Ahmet and Mehmet Altan must be released

Absurd accusations mask the real job of finding those responsible for the failed coup

 
 
This bizarre adventure began with a prosecutor accusing journalist and author Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics, of having “established contact with coup plotters through giving televised messages that cannot be perceived by the conscious mind.”
 
As a result, the brothers were taken into custody in a pre-dawn raid on Sept. 10, the first day of a 9-day long official holiday in Turkey, on the eve of bayram, or Eid al-Adha.
 
Their alleged offence, leaked to pro-government media, was for that they had given “subliminal” messages in support of a coup d’état during a television program aired one night before the July 15 coup attempt.
 
During their detention -- with no access to lawyers in the first five days and no family visits allowed for the entire duration– they were kept in deplorable conditions, separated from each other in tiny windowless and badly ventilated cells lit with fluorescent light day and night; unable to view the sky at any time with no access to a yard under poor hygienic conditions. They were fed only one cold sandwich and two small meals of canned food a day, with no permission to have coffee, tea or cigarettes. They were also denied access to writing instruments and kept from using the telephone or watching television.
 
When they were finally questioned at the end of their 12-day detention period, they were not asked so much as a single question about any “subliminal coup messages.” The supposition must be that the immensely negative reaction to this shameful accusation, both from the international community as well from many in in Turkey, obliged the prosecutors to change track.
 
Instead, the two writers were accused of being members of the terrorist organization behind the July 15 coup and of attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey or attempting to prevent it from performing its duties.
 
Evidence of their crime included articles written by Ahmet and Mehmet Altan during the years 2008 and 2010. These were considered “instrument in the execution of a crime” and their inclusion in the investigation file showed an unlawful determination to have the two writers arrested.
 
Despite being accused of such a horrendous crime as “membership in an armed terror group,” the two were not presented with any evidence suggesting they had actually participated in an alleged terror group membership at any point.
 
In keeping with the prosecution’s allegations, the Judicature of Peace that heard the arraignment reasoned that stating that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has “crossed the boundaries of the law” and by expressing criticism was an element and indication of being a “coup supporter.” As such, the Judicature placed Mehmet Altan under arrest in the predawn hours of Sept. 22, for a single sentence he uttered during the length of a 2.5 hour television program; treating his single-sentence as evidence of his “membership in a terror organization” and of him being a “putschist.”
 
The Judicature claimed that Mehmet Altan’s continued criticism of the government and Erdoğan even after corruption allegations that implicated several members of the government were raised on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 of 2013 was an indication of his support for a coup d’état.
 
The Mehmet Altan ruling has clearly shown that the current legal system has adopted and put into practice a mindset that anyone who criticizes the government is by default “pro-coup.”
 
Since the failed coup of July 15, a large number of journalists and writers taken into custody in relation with the failed coup were accused of membership in a terrorist organization or making propaganda for a terrorist organization. However in this instance, a prominent journalist and writer, and an economics professor are directly being accused of “attempting a coup.”
 
Arrest warrant for Ahmet Altan after his release
 
Ahmet Altan was initially released on probation by the 10th Judicature of Peace on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to support allegations of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and that he engaged in attempting to “overthrow the Turkish government or prevent it from performing its duties.”
 
Within less than 24 hours of Altan’s release, Prosecutor Can Tuncay objected to the court’s decision and was able to get the 1st Judicature of Peace to issue an arrest warrant for Altan. When information about this development appeared in the news, Ahmet Altan voluntarily surrendered himself to the İstanbul Court. This ruling states that Altan might have “membership of a terrorist organization” based on news reports published in the Taraf daily, where he was editor-in-chief from the launch of the paper in November 2007 until December 2012.
 
Those who want to throw the coup investigation off track and who want to silence all criticism regarding the coup detentions and arrests have sent Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, writers who have spent their lifetime fighting coups and a pro-coup mentality and who have written hundreds of anti-coup articles and books.
 
Supporting Ahmet and Mehmet Altan is also supporting the rule of law, democracy, and Turkey.
 
We will continue our legal fight until these false accusations against Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan are dropped and the two brothers are released.
 
 

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