Emre Kural
Feb 26 2018

EU: Release Altans and Ilıcak without delay 

An EU spokesperson spoke to Ahval about the life sentences handed by a Turkish court to six journalists this month, including the Altan brothers and Nazli Ilıcak.

"While we recognise Turkey’s need to address swift and proportionate action after the attempted coup in 2016, the measures now go well beyond those initially foreseen, including on media freedom," said the spokesperson.

The EU comments on the life sentences came 10 days after the verdicts were announced by the court.

A Turkish court gave life sentences to the six, including former newspaper editor Ahmet Altan, his brother, columnist and economist Mehmet Altan, and the well-known journalist Nazli Ilıcak, after convicting them for being "the media wing" of the Gülenists, an Islamist sect the government says carried out the failed July 2016 coup attempt. 

"The court decision to imprison journalists for life and the lack of implementation of the Constitutional Court’s ruling further increases the EU’s serious concerns relating to the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression in Turkey," said the EU spokesperson.

"The European Union expects the Turkish authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision of 11 January 2018 is implemented and that the journalists are released without delay."

In early January the Turkish Constitutional Court ordered the release on human rights grounds of two journalists, Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, who have been imprisoned since last July awaiting trial for membership of the Gülenists' alleged terrorist organisation.

However, local courts in Istanbul defied the ruling, claiming that allowing their release would be “illegal”.

Local courts also claimed that the Constitutional Court had shown bias and exceeded its authority in making its ruling.

This defiance  by the local courts marked a first in Turkish legal history.

The EU Spokesperson also told Ahval that "concrete and lasting improvements in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms remain essential to the prospects of EU-Turkey relations."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists  (CPJ) statistics, despite releasing some journalists in 2017, Turkey remains the world’s worst jailer for the second consecutive year, with 73 journalists behind bars, compared with 81 in 2016.