Tim Lowell
Feb 13 2018

“They fear pens, not guns”, Turkish trial of writers nears conclusion

A Turkish court began the final hearings of seven suspects, including journalists and writers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, on charges of being the “media wing of the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ)”.

The trial verdicts are expected to be delivered on Friday, with all suspects facing the possibility of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole due to them being tried on terror charges.

Ilıcak wrote for Bugün, a newspaper linked to the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government calls FETÖ and says masterminded the July 2016 failed coup attempt, while Ahmet Altan was the editor-in-chief of Taraf, a liberal muckraking newspaper that published documents said to be leaked by the movement implicating senior secularist officials in a conspiracy against the state.

Mehmet Altan, a former leader-writer at Star newspaper, which came under government pressure and was eventually bought out by Erdoğan allies, was working at Istanbul University as an economics professor at the time of his arrest.

Yesterday, two of the Altan brothers’ lawyers were thrown out of the courthouse for demanding to be able to read a constitutional court decision in order to put it on the record.

Speaking via a video link to the Istanbul court from a nearby top security prison, Ahmet Altan said: “I have not come here to be judged, but to judge.”

“I have the right to speak in the name of thousands of innocents who have not had the opportunity to appeal against the tyranny that has targeted them, let alone carry out a coup, for I have seen the injustices that they have suffered, and I have shared their fate behind stone walls.”

Ahmet Altan said that the judiciary in Turkey was dead or dying, and that its corpse was stinking throughout the entire country.

“There is now a judiciary and a media in Turkey that sees justice as punishing the other. And we are the other. All the opponents of the Justice and Development Party (AKP),” he said.

“No true prosecutor, no true judge, no true lawyer can be a tool of this treachery.”

The only government body that was still functioning properly, Altan said, was the cemeteries directorate.

“This state accuses us of carrying out the July 15 coup. This is an open lie. The intelligence unit that watched us for years knows that we had no connection to the coup, the police know it, and the prosecutors who wrote this indictment know it too,” he said.

He compared the officially sanctioned hunting of Gülenists in the wake of the coup to the smearing of all the enemies of the Young Turks as reactionaries after the defeat of a 1909 uprising against them.

“Those in political power no longer fear generals,” Ahmet Altan said, “But they do fear writers.”

“They fear pens, not guns. Because pens can reach where guns cannot: into the conscience of a society.”

Among the evidence being used for his participation in the July 15 coup attempt was a news article he had published six years before, he said, asking how exactly he was supposed to have promoted Gülenists into key positions in the military in order to carry out the coup attempt.

Moreover, he stood accused of receiving documents from the Gülenists to publish in December 2013 in Taraf, he said, but he had left the newspaper in 2012.

“The prosecutor sees criticising the AKP as proof of being a putschist and says that because I did so I must die in prison,” he said.

“What does this prosecutor think a coup is? A coup is not carried out with comment, a coup is carried out with weapons.

“This case is a case that continues in violation of the constitution, the law, and a Supreme Court decision. We are facing life sentences in a case that legally should never be happening,” he said.

This comment led to a warning from the judge.

Mehmet Altan later came onto the stand, beginning by saying that his own words in his defence were being ignored by the court.

“Why? Because if they paid attention to the defence it would not be possible to hold people in prison without any evidence,” he said.

The judge reprimanded him for calling the possibility of life without parole a death sentence, saying that Turkey no longer had such a sentence, before pausing the trial for lunch break.

 

You can find Ahmet Altan's full defense statement here:

And Mehmet Altan's full defence statement here: