Gov’t slams top court for decision on Altan and Alpay

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Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım (Evrim Aydin / Anadolu Agency)

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on Friday criticized a Constitutional Court decision to release jailed journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan.

“The Constitutional Court does not know the case. The right decision will be taken by the court of first instance,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters, adding that the top court should not weaken the fight against the faith-based Gülen movement.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also lambasted the top court decision. “With the Alpay and Altan decision, the Constitutional Court has overstepped the line that was drawn by the Constitution and the law,” he tweeted

Bozdağ accused the top court of repeating the same mistake it made when it released journalist Can Dündar in the past.

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 refused to comply with the order to release the journalists.

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.

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.

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