Turkish courts refuse order to release two journalists

Turkey’s justice system was plunged into confusion last Thursday after two criminal courts defied an order by the country’s highest court to release two jailed journalists. Last Thursday the constitutional court ruled that the pre-trial detention of Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay violated their right to freedom of expression and said they should be released from Silivri prison. But hours later two separate Istanbul penal courts said they could not implement the decision because they had not been notified of the ruling.

Their decision was supported by Bekir Bozdaz, Turkey’s deputy prime minister who criticised the constitutional court accusing it of overstepping “the limit set out in the constitution and the laws”.

Thursday’s ruling had given hope to press freedom campaigners in Turkey calling for the release of some 150 jailed journalists.

Mr. Alpay, a columnist for the now defunct newspaper Zaman, was arrested two weeks after the attempt coup of July 2016. Mr. Altan, an economist and writer was arrested in September 2016 along with his brother, a former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Taraf which was shut down after the attempted coup. Both have been accused of “links to terrorist groups” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” charges they have denied.

PEN International, ARTICLE 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Index on Censorship, International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who have campaigned on Altan’s and Alpay’s cases since their detentions and submitted third party interventions on the cases to the European Court of Human Rights, expressed dismay that the decision has not been carried out and the implications for the rule of law in Turkey.

Source Financial Times 13/14 January and EFJ web site

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