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EP members issue statement criticizing lower court refusal to release Altan, Alpay

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Rebecca Harms, together with other Members of the European Parliament and of the EP-Turkey Forum, on Friday issued a statement concerning the refusal of local courts to respect the ruling of the Turkish Constitutional Court to immediately free journalists and writers Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan from jail.

“We highly welcome yesterday’s Turkish constitutional court’s ruling to immediately release the journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, as their rights had been violated under pre-trial detention for well over a year. This decision constitutes a milestone and a vital step to improve the media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey.

“However, we strongly criticise the local courts refusal to follow the Constitutional Court’s ruling to release the journalists and we call on them to implement the Constitutional Court ruling immediately. If the lower courts do not respect the decision of the Turkish Constitutional court it will result in a further deterioration of Turkey’s constitutional crisis and the erosion of rule of law and the separation of powers.

“Last but not least, we call for the release of all unjustly imprisoned journalists and Turkish citizens.”

The Constitutional Court had ruled earlier on Thursday that jailed journalists Altan and Alpay be released, saying their rights had been violated.

İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts on Thursday evening, however, refused to comply with the order from Constitutional Court for the release of jailed journalists Alpay and Altan.

Lawyer Veysel Ok, who made the application to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Alpay, said the top court’s decision could be a milestone for the trials of journalists in Turkey.

“This ruling, which came in the first application after the failed coup attempt, should set a precedent for all trials,” said Ok, adding, “I hope this ruling becomes the first step of a broader right to freedom of expression in the country.”

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.

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