Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir on Wednesday called on Turkish authorities to ensure that a Constitutional Court decision in the cases of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay is implemented and that the journalists are released without further delay.
“This refusal to implement the Constitutional Court decision is of grave concern, as it is related to the freedom of individuals, in that case of two journalists. It seriously infringes upon their rights including freedom of expression and freedom to work as journalists, which should be protected by the rule of law. I call on the authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision of 11 January 2018 in the cases of Altan and Alpay is implemented and that they are released without any further delay,” Désir said on Wednesday in a letter to Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
According to the decision of the Constitutional Court, which was published on Jan. 11, the ongoing detention of Altan and Alpay is disproportionate and infringing upon their rights to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of the media. The representative had previously welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision as a milestone in protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists in Turkey.
However, two lower courts later refused to follow the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the journalists remain in prison.
Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University and a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government, and Alpay, a veteran journalist and columnist for the now-closed Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, were jailed in a crackdown on media after an abortive coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
The two are charged with membership in a terrorist organization, abetting a coup against the government and attempting to destroy the constitutional order. Prosecutors also accuse the suspects of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, blamed by the Turkish government of having masterminded the putsch.
Mehmet Altan was arrested along with his brother Ahmet Altan, a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the closed-down Taraf daily, on charges of sending “subliminal messages” to coup plotters in a TV program on July 14, a day before the coup attempt.