FREE AHMET ALTAN

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Convict: Ahmet H Altan - acclaimed novelist with more than ten published books, columnist, journalist, editor-in-chief of a newspaper, and avid defender of democracy, civil rights and freedom of speech for all layers of the society. 

Charges: Being a member of a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the government and the constitutional order, interfering with the work of the government and the national assembly.

Sentence: Life in prison without parole together with five other journalists including his brother Mehmet Altan and another prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak.

Turkish Supreme Court overturnedthe decision on Altan brothers and Ilicak in January of 2019. His brother was released, but the court deniedAhmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak’s petitions for release. Thecourt ruled that they were aware of the coup plan and supported the “Gulen Movement” though they were not its members. He was also convicted for insulting the presidentlater in 2019.

Ahmet Altan had spent his career of more than 30 years by dissecting the visible and hidden fault lines threatening democracy and civil rights in Turkey. He had written as a liberal columnist in leading newspapers such as Hurriyet, Milliyet, and Radikal. He became the editor-in-chief of the newly established liberal Taraf in 2012, where he continued to write the editorial regularly. Throughout his career, Altan has always been subject to attacks and praises for lauding democracy, human rights,and civil liberties for all. He was sentenced to prison for 20 months in 1995 for defending the rights of Kurdish citizens - his sentencing was later delayed on the condition of not repeating the same “crime”.
 
In his leadership, Taraf became the newspaper which revealed the plans of multiple coups within the ranks of the military. He published documents obtained from military and bureaucratic sources much like “Pentagon Papers” and “Watergate scandal”. On the other hand, his editorials and TV interviews as well as Taraf’s stance on minority rights, especially of the Kurdish minority, put him on the bullseye by the government officials. His leadership in enabling investigative journalism in Turkey and his stance on many subjects made him the recipient of more than 100 lawsuits instead of journalism awards. His stand-off with military and government and his principled defense of minorities remind us the likes of Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post (Watergate, Pentagon Papers) and Ralph McGill of Atlanta Constitution (Defending anti-segregation in Jim Crow era Georgia).
 
In December 2013, a graft probe by the prosecutors against five ministers and their sons as well as the son of the prime minister of the time, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was abruptly nipped in the bud by Erdogan. Altan’s defense ofand emphasis on the justice system in a three-legged democratic system ruffled a lot of feathers and brought him the wrath of the government right after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Shortly after, he was detainedand arrested. Though he was released on probation, his pseudo-freedom lasted only 24 hours. Upon leaving the courtroom, Ahmet spoke to the press, saying “This country is ours, we are not afraid. We’ll always defend law and democracy”. 
 
During the trial, the prosecutors even claimed that he used his TV appearance the day before the coup attempt to give “subliminal messages”in support of the coup. At times, he rose up from his seat and laughed at the prosecutors’ claims loudly challenging them to provide a single credible witness or evidence supporting their claims. He also shared the records of his experience during trial with his lawyer to be made public for future generations. His notes were published and translated to English with the name “I WILL NEVER SEE THE WORLD AGAIN”. One thing he has never done was to succumb to the genuine threats of the prosecutors and even the government.
 
Snippets from Altan’s writings:

  • “We may never be defeated.We may die or be killed, be jailed or be tried in the courts, be left unemployed, be tortured or shot, but we may never be defeated. We are the defenders of life.”
  • “How crowded is our loneliness! Wherever we turn, we bump into ourselves!”
  • “Love is like a sword wound! It heals but surely leaves its mark.”
  • “You can imprison me, but you cannot keep me here. Because,like all writers, I have magic, I can pass through your walls with ease.”
  • “I will never see the world again; I will never see a sky unframedby the walls of a courtyard. I am descending to Hades. I walk into the darkness like a god who writes his own destiny. My hero and I disappear into the darkness together.” 


Support AHMET ALTAN for his unconditional release! By signing this petition, join us to urge the Turkish government to enforce the rule of law and to immediately terminate Ahmet Altan’s arbitrary imprisonment!
We call on the international community to urge the authorities in Turkey for his immediate release and Ahmet Altan’s colleagues, friends, readers to speak out!
 
 
1- MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, TURKEY
The Honorable Abdülhamit Gül 
Minister of Justice 
Ministry of Justice 
06659 Kizilay 
Ankara, Republic of Turkey 
Email: info@adalet.gov.tr
 
 2- SUPREME COURT (ANAYASA MAHKEMESI)
06805 Çankaya
Ankara, Republic of Turkey
Tel : 312 463 73 00 
E-mail : bilgi@anayasa.gov.tr


3- UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
The Honorable Ms. Michelle Bachelet Jeria/High Commissioner
InfoDesk@ohchr.org
civilsociety@ohchr.org
dexrel@ohchr.org

4-  COUNCIL OF EUROPE
OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
FRANCE
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: +33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
Email:  commissioner@coe.int
 
5- FRÉDÉRIC DOLT
ADVISER FOR THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON:
· European Court of Human Rights
· Directorate General of Human Rights and the Rule of Law (DGI)
· Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law (DLAPIL)
· Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists
· Reforms - implementation and follow-up
· ECHR press@echr.coe.int(link sends e-mail) 
Leif Berg: +33(0)3 88 41 23 67
Frédéric Dolt: +33(0)3 90 21 53 39
 
6-AHMET MURATHAN GUN
BM VIYANA DAIMI TEMSILCILIĞI 
PERMANENT MISSION OF TURKEY
Rennweg 17/3 1030, Vienna/Austria 
T:00 43 1 714 20 95
F:00 43 1 714 20 99
E: tr-delegation.unov@mfa.gov.tr

7- DAVID KAYE  
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION
E:  freedex@ohchr.org

8- WORKING GROUP ON ARBITRARY DETENTION
Leigh Toomey English wgad@ohchr.org
Working Group on arbitrary detention Sètondji Roland Jean-Baptiste Adjovi French, English wgad@ohchr.org
Working Group on arbitrary detention José Guevara Spanish, English wgad@ohchr.org
Working Group on arbitrary detention Seong-Phil Hong English wgad@ohchr.org
Working Group on arbitrary detention Elina Steinerte English, Russian wgad@ohchr.org