Int’l organizations shocked by Altan’s re-arrest, call for his release

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Ahmet Altan

Several international organizations have expressed outrage over the Tuesday re-arrest of well-known Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, 69, one week after his release from prison.

Altan’s re-arrest came shortly after a Turkish court on Tuesday reversed a previous ruling to release the journalist on appeal after convicting him of aiding a terrorist organization.

The ruling was challenged by a prosecutor immediately after the hearing.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir expressed his deep concern regarding the re-arrest of Altan.

“I am appalled by this decision, which comes only a week after Altan’s release from prison. Arresting Altan again is a terrible setback and a reason for serious concern, especially if we take into account the length of the judicial process against him and the fact that he has already spent three years in pre-trial detention,” said Désir.

He added that the re-arrest of Altan can only deepen the media freedom crisis and increase the feeling of legal insecurity within the media community.

Journalists Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak were sentenced last week to 10 years, six months and eight years, nine months in prison, respectively, for “aiding a terrorist group without membership in it” but were released by the court pending appeal. A third journalist, Professor Mehmet Altan, who was also tried in the same proceedings, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence against him.

“I repeat my call to reverse this decision and ensure that journalists are protected and free to do their job,” Désir added.

One of Turkey’s most famous writers and journalists, Altan was first arrested after a 2016 failed coup on charges of supporting the coup attempt.

Amnesty International’s Europe director, Marie Struthers, also in a statement on Tuesday expressed outrage over the re-arrest of the Turkish journalist.

“He was prosecuted, jailed and convicted without a shred of evidence, purely because of his opinions. It is impossible to see this decision as anything other than further punishment for his determination not be silenced and it compounds an already shocking catalogue of injustice he has been subjected to.”

“Ahmet Altan has committed no crime. He was released last Monday, following a unanimous court decision. His three years of pre-trial detention are a travesty of justice as is the sentence imposed on him. This judicial farce, emblematic of a period where politically motivated show trials have become the norm, must be brought to an end. Ahmet Altan must be allowed to remain at home with his family and to have his absurd conviction quashed.”

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