Renowned writer Altan tells court indictment lacks legal grounds, evidence

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Ahmet Altan

Well-known Turkish writer and journalist Ahmet Altan, who has been jailed since September on the grounds that he had prior knowledge of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, said in his court defense on Thursday that the accusations directed at him in the indictment lack any legal basis and that the prosecutor who drafted it did not bother to include any evidence to back up his accusations.

Ahmet Altan and his brother Mehmet Altan, an economics professor and journalist, were detained in September and charged with sending coded messages on a television talk show a day before the abortive July 15 military coup.

The brothers both face three consecutive life sentences if convicted.

The trial started this week.

The fourth hearing was held at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on Thursday during which Ahmet Altan delivered his defense.

“This text, which is claimed to be an indictment and lacks any intelligent or legal basis, doesn’t even deserve a defense. When you read the indictment, you understand that places called courthouses have turned into legal slaughterhouses,” Altan said.

The famous writer said he would still present a defense and show the contradictions, lies and inaccurate claims in the indictment to leave a footnote in history because he believes justice will return to Turkey sooner or later.

Examining and refuting the accusations directed against him in the indictment one by one, Altan said he faces coup charges mainly because he knows the people who allegedly know the people who masterminded the July 15 coup attempt.

Describing the accusation as ridiculous, Altan said how can knowing someone be considered evidence of a crime.

“If your neighbor stands trial on charges of forgery, will you also stand trial on same charges just because you know him? In order for you to be accused of something and to be held responsible for doing it, you need to commit that act yourself or take part in committing it. Is it not necessary to prove that you took part in that act? Of course, it is. Is there any such evidence? Of course not. There is only verbiage based solely on lies,” said Altan.

With regard to his writing for the Haberdar news website belonging to journalist Said Sefa, who is mentioned as the leader of a terrorist organization in the indictment, Altan said there is no court ruling recognizing Sefa as a terrorist leader, and even if there were such a ruling, this would have nothing to do with himself as only the person who commits a criminal act can be held responsible for it.

The prominent journalist also said the prosecutor in the indictment included news reports from the Taraf daily as evidence of Altan’s involvement in the coup attempt; however, he parted ways with Taraf in 2012 as its editor-in-chief, and the daily’s past reports have nothing to do with the July 15 coup attempt.

“I am telling all this in detail because I want everyone to see how this prosecutor and similar others are recklessly destroying people’s lives and abusing their power. I want all this to be recorded for the day when the law is once againrevived,” said Altan.

Altan’s younger brother, Mehmet, who delivered his defense during the third hearing of the trial on Wednesday, denied that he sent subliminal messages to coup plotters who tried to overthrow the Turkish government last year, saying he had been put on trial for a crime that does not exist.

“If Rousseau were alive today and had shared his views on TV, he would be taken into custody for giving subliminal messages,” Altan told the court, referring to Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

“There were no subliminal messages on that TV program. … I have been detained for a nonexistent message, over a nonexistent crime,” he said according to a copy of his defense statement posted online.

“Surely I wasn’t aware of the coup attempt. I know that I stand here today just because I did not applaud the slaughter of democracy by the government,” he told the court.

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