Turkey’s vaccination drive bypasses jailed journalist Ahmet Altan

Turkish writer Ahmet Altan has been unable to access a COVID-19 vaccine in prison, where he is currently held on terrorism charges, his lawyer said on Thursday.

“Today I learned that my client, 70-year-old Ahmet Altan, still hasn’t received a coronavirus vaccine; and his request hasn’t been answered,” Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu said in a social media post.

“In the name of incarcerated persons above the age of 65, I am reminding the authorities of their duties, and sharing with the public the gravity (of the situation).”

Turkey launched its mass vaccination program on Jan. 14, starting with healthcare workers and elderly citizens.

According to the Health Ministry’s website, vaccinating the over-65s has finished, with public servants at the Defence Ministry next in line, followed by the Interior Ministry and several other government departments

Prominent novelist and journalist Altan was originally arrested in 2016 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. His conviction was overturned in 2019 before being replaced with the lesser crime of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. A further appeal to Turkey’s Constitutional Court was rejected in December.

The original indictment for Altan’s arrest accused the journalist of sending subliminal messages via television on the night of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Altan’s eventual trial and conviction contributed to the European Union’s decision to freeze accession negotiations with Turkey citing growing concerns over rule of law in the country.