Local courts reject Turkey’s top court ruling to release jailed journalists Altan and Alpay



Local courts reject Turkey’s top court ruling to release jailed journalists Altan and Alpay


Two Istanbul courts on Jan. 11 rejected the order to release jailed journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, hours after Turkey’s Constitutional Court said their ongoing arrest violated their fundamental rights.

The local courts said the journalists should remain under arrest until the details of the Constitutional Court’s ruling are published in the Official Gazette.

In a move that could be considered a reply to the local courts, the Constitutional Court’s official Twitter account has said the fully-detailed rulings are available on the top court’s website.

The top court’s decision has also drawn the government’s ire.

“[With the ruling], the Constitutional Court has gone beyond the limits set by the constitution and the laws, acting as a first degree court by evaluating the case and the evidence,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ wrote on his Twitter account on Jan. 12.

“When ruling on individual applications, the Constitutional Court cannot act as a first degree court, or an appeals court and it cannot rule accordingly,” he wrote, adding that the rulings amounted to “a bad and wrongful repetition of the Can Dündar ruling.”

Before the local courts refused to releases the journalists on Jan. 11, the lawyer Veysel Ok, who submitted the application to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Şahin Alpay, had said the top court’s decision could stand out as a milestone for journalist trials in Turkey.

“This ruling, which was the first application of its kind after the failed coup attempt, should set a precedent for all trials,” said Ok.

“It clearly states that news stories and opinion pieces cannot be used as evidence of a crime. I hope this ruling is the first step towards broader rights of freedom of expression in the country,” he added.

The two journalists, who have both been in prison for more than a year, were jailed in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.

Both Altan and Alpay have been accused of “links to terrorist groups” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” charges they have denied.

An Istanbul prosecutor sought in December last year aggravated life sentences for each of the six suspects in the case probing the “media wing” of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), including, Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three other suspects currently under arrest who face aggravated jail terms for “violating the constitution” and “having prior knowledge of the coup.”

Around 145 journalists are in jail, according to the Turkish Journalists’ Association.

International journalism groups say that Turkey is now the world’s largest jailer of journalists.

Many of the jailed reporters have been charged with spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) or U.S.-based Fethullah Gülen’s network, widely believed to have masterminded the 2016 failed coup attempt.

şahin alpay, Mehmet Altan, Turkish court

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