Sanem Altan, the daughter of imprisoned author Ahmet Altan, has criticized the handing down of aggravated life sentences to his father and two other prominent journalists including Nazlı Ilıcak by a Turkish court last week, saying that the life sentence was nothing but the Turkish version of a Kafka story, with no legal basis.
“When Deniz Yücel was freed the same day as these verdicts, it was clear that journalists are picked up, detained, imprisoned or released based on a single person’s command. Journalists have become bargaining chips. No one will believe that there is any law in this country anymore,” Sanem Altan told Ahval, a recently founded news portal,in an exclusive interview on February 24.
An İstanbul high criminal court last Friday handed down aggravated life sentences to six journalists on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order.
Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, and his journalist brother Ahmet, were charged with sending coded messages on a television talk show a day before the abortive July 15 military coup in 2016. Ilıcak, another veteran journalist, and two former employees of the now-closed Zaman newspaper, Zaman brand marketing manager Yakup Şimşek and art director Fevzi Yazıcı, as well as former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül were also given aggravated life sentences.
Both Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan, who were detained on Sept. 10, 2016, were accused of sending “subliminal” messages regarding the failed coup on a TV show a day before the putsch.
The Altan brothers are prominent journalists who have been unequivocally critical of the regime of President Erdoğan.
Below is the rest of the interview published by the news portal
“This judgment is understandable for Mehmet and Ahmet Altan, because they are very strong opponents and they are afraid of these men. But, people who don’t know each other, and are accused of being the media arm for FETÖ, who have no connection to each other, are all being tried together. Even their families on the outside have no relationship or connection with each other. I don’t understand how they are finding any connections between these people. With no legal basis, no evidence and to violate the Constitutional Court edicts, this has to be very personal. One has to wake up in the morning believing that Ahmet Altan is one’s enemy. Sadly, this is how they regard anyone who opposes their views or position. My father spoke beautifully at the last hearing and said, ‘I have been tried many times, but this is the first time I have come face to face with a group who have violated the constitution.’ It really is surreal and unbelievable. The lower courts are relying on a television programme as an evidence from years ago, along with a piece he had published in Taraf newspaper six years ago. The life sentence is the Turkish version of a Kafka story, with no legal basis. When Deniz Yücel was freed the same day as these verdicts, it was clear that journalists are picked up, detained, imprisoned or released based on a single person’s command. Journalists have become bargaining chips. No one will believe that there is any law in this country anymore. In this country, when the Kurds, Alevis, left and liberal groups, or others and the Altans were being subjugated or having their rights violated, many were silent. It was as if they thought this was deserved. When in reality, my father is a journalist who has always questioned injustice or rights violations.
“It was an attempted coup with no evidence. I believe it is true that it was a controlled (planned) coup. By whom, why, no one knows. They are not able to show the evidence. They claim there are certain groups, that it could have been this grocer, student, soldier, or writer. For example, you claim that the military was involved then, you have to reveal who ordered those soldiers. It wasn’t the journalists nor the students who ordered the soldiers into their positions.”
“The only thing that concerns me is the law, which should concern everyone. I don’t care about FETÖ or what President Erdoğan is doing. I am only concerned with the deterioration of the justice system and loss of legal rights! The family plans on carrying the case to the European Human Rights Courts, once all options have been exhausted in Turkey, but are not hopeful that Turkish courts will implement the decisions of the EHRC. If Turkey doesn’t enforce the findings of the ECHR, will it be able to accept the sanctions that follow? They are preparing indictments which can be easily dismissed, it is not even necessary for them to be reviewed by a lawyer.”