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Turkey’s top court again rules to release jailed journalist Alpay

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Friday ruled for a second time that the rights of arrested columnist Şahin Alpay have been violated, CNN Türk reported.

The top court ruling comes as the European Court of Human Rights is set to announce its decision in the case on March 20.

On Jan. 11, the Constitutional Court, in its review of the individual applications made by Alpay and journalist Mehmet Altan, both of whom have now been in prison for more than a year, held that both journalists’ “rights to personal liberty and security” enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution, and their “rights to freedom of expression” and “freedom of the press,” protected under Articles 26 and 27, respectively, had been violated.

Lawyer Veysel Ok, who had made the application to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Alpay, said at the time that 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,” Ok said, adding, “I hope this ruling becomes the first step of a broader right to freedom of expression in the country.”

Under the Turkish Constitution’s Article 153, all Constitutional Court rulings enter into force immediately and are binding for the legislative, executive and judicial organs, including the administration and officials.

However, the Istanbul 13th and 26th High Criminal Courts, where Alpay and Altan are standing trial, respectively, refused to enforce the Constitutional Court’s decision on the grounds that its reasoned judgments had not been communicated.

The next day the 13th High Criminal Court announced that it would not enforce the ruling, alleging that the Constitutional Court had “usurped authority.”

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 2 rejected a request for the release of Alpay and Altan, despite the earlier ruling that the rights of the imprisoned journalists had been violated.

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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