Feb 28 2018

Nobel Laureates call for freeing of Turkish writers

Nearly 40 Nobel Laureates have written an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in The Guardian newspaper calling for a halt to what they said was the unlawful detention and wrongful conviction of writers and thinkers.

Among the examples given by the letter’s 38 authors, who included novelists JM Coetzee and Kazuo Ishiguro, was the recent sentencing of journalists and writers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak to life sentences.

“David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, concurred and dubbed the legal proceedings a ‘show trial’, they wrote.

“Turkey’s own constitutional court concurred with this criticism. On 11 January this year, it ruled that Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Şahin Alpay’s rights were being violated by pre-trial detention, and that they should be released. Yet the first-degree courts refused to implement the higher constitutional court’s decision, thus placing the judicial system in criminal violation of the constitution. Mr President, you must surely be concerned that the lower criminal court’s defiance and this non-legal decision was backed by the spokesperson of your government.”

An Istanbul court sentenced Ahmet Altan to a further five years and 11 months on Wednesday for making terrorist propaganda and insulting Erdoğan, Turkish state news agency Anadolu said.

The letter also reminded the ceremony which was held in 2009 in honor of Cetin Altan, Turkey's veteran columnist and father of Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan. In the ceremony, then prime minister Erdogan made a speech. The letter reminds:

During a ceremony in honour of Çetin Altan, on 2 February 2009, you declared publicly that “Turkey is no longer the same old Turkey who used to sentence its great writers to prison – this era is gone for ever.” Among the audience were Çetin Altan’s two sons: Ahmet and Mehmet. Nine years later, they are sentenced to life; isn’t that a fundamental contradiction?