Sanem Altan on life sentence given to father: 'A la Turca Kafkaesque story'..

The Turkish government, in the aftermath of the attempted coup of July 2016, immediately enforced a state of emergency that continues to this day. Under the state of emergency, hundreds of academics, journalists and opposition members have been detained and jailed, many indefinitely, facing accusations that they were involved in the coup attempt, or had foreknowledge of the plot.

Two such prisoners are Ahmet Altan, one of Turkey's best-known novelists and a former newspaper editor, and his brother, Mehmet Altan, an academic, writer and economist. The two men have been in jail for the past 18 months, charged with “using force and violence” to overthrow the government, and accused of having know in advance about coup, which the government blames on U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen. Turkey calls the Gülen’s followers the Fethullahist Terror Organisation. 

The two men were given life sentences last week for supporting the coup, along with four others, including Turkey's one of most prominent journalists, Nazli Ilicak.

Ahval recently interviewed Ahmet Altan’s daughter, Sanem Altan, who is also a writer, and asked her to discuss the current situation and her thoughts on the sentences.

Sanem Altan is not surprised at the long sentences given to her father and uncle. She said she expected the outcome.

“This judgment is understandable for Mehmet and Ahmet Altan, because they are very strong opponents and they are afraid of these men. But, people who don’t know each other, and are accused of being the media arm for FETÖ, who have no connection to each other, are all being tried together. Even their families on the outside have no relationship or connection with each other. I don’t understand how they are finding any connections between these people,” Altan said.


sanem altan

"With no legal basis, no evidence and to violate the Constitutional Court edicts, this has to be very personal. One has to wake up in the morning believing that Ahmet Altan is one’s enemy. Sadly, this is how they regard anyone who opposes their views or position.

“My father spoke beautifully at the last hearing and said, ‘I have been tried many times, but this is the first time I have come face to face with a group who have violated the constitution.’ It really is surreal and unbelievable …

“The lower courts are relying on a television programme as an evidence from years ago, along with a piece he had published in Taraf newspaper six years ago. The life sentence is the Turkish version of a Kafka story, with no legal basis.”

“When Deniz Yücel was freed the same day as these verdicts, it was clear that journalists are picked up, detained, imprisoned or released based on a single person’s command. Journalists have become bargaining chips. No one will believe that there is any law in this country anymore.”

“In this country, when the Kurds, Alevis, left and liberal groups, or others and the Altans were being subjugated or having their rights violated, many were silent. It was as if they thought this was deserved. When in reality, my father is a journalist who has always questioned injustice or rights violations.”

Sanem Altan questioned the government’s version of the events of the 2016 coup attempt.

“It was an attempted coup with no evidence. I believe it is true that it was a controlled (planned) coup. By whom, why, no one knows. They are not able to show the evidence. They claim there are certain groups, that it could have been this grocer, student, soldier, or writer. For example, you claim that the military was involved then, you have to reveal who ordered those soldiers. It wasn’t the journalists nor the students who ordered the soldiers into their positions.”

“The only thing that concerns me is the law, which should concern everyone. I don’t care about FETÖ or what President Erdoğan is doing. I am only concerned with the deterioration of the justice system and loss of legal rights!”

The family plans on carrying the case to the European Human Rights Courts, once all options have been exhausted in Turkey, but are not hopeful that Turkish courts will implement the decisions of the EHRC.

“If Turkey doesn’t enforce the findings of the ECHR, will it be able to accept the sanctions that follow? They are preparing indictments which can be easily dismissed, it is not even necessary for them to be reviewed by a lawyer.”