Lawyer of jailed journalist calls on ECHR to urgently examine application

The lawyer of imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, has called on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to review the individual application that was filed in 2017, Expression Interrupted – a freedom of expression news website – reported on Monday.

Figen Albuga Calikusu, Altan’s lawyer, stressed in a petition filed with the ECHR on June 4 that her client has been in jail for 991 days, and that the individual petition that has been pending before Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals since January 12, 2017, should, therefore, be examined without delay.

Altan has been in prison since September 10, 2016, due to his alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Last year, Altan was charged with “trying to overthrow the government and constitutional order” and “being a member of a terrorist organization,” and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The charges and the life sentence have been regarded as baseless and inaccurate by impartial legal experts and observers.

In her recently filed petition, Calikusu called on the ECHR to urgently examine Altan’s individual application and render its judgment.

“Turkey is now discussing a judicial reform strategy, but if only the country’s justice system operated fairly, that alone would solve so many problems,” Altan’s lawyer said in a statement concerning her recent petition.

“Had Ahmet Altan been subjected to a fair trial, he would not have been in jail for the past 991 days,” added Calikusu.

She stressed in the petition that Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM), the rulings of which are binding for all subordinate courts across the country’s legal landscape and judicial system, found “no rights violations” in Altan’s file.

The AYM’s decision came more than two-and-a-half years after the individual application was lodged with the court on behalf of Altan on November 8, 2016.

Calikusu also stressed that the AYM has intentionally not issued the reasoned decision for the case in the 30 days that elapsed following its judgment of “no rights violations” dated May 3. She argued that the AYM aims to slow down the process of the ECHR to examine and place a final judgment on Altan’s case by putting off issuing the reasoned version of its judgment.

She held forth that this was an indicator that Turkey’s top court has been influenced by political power and that it could no longer be deemed an “effective” legal remedy as described in Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Calikusu further pointed to the inconsistent judgments rendered by the AYM in the individual applications of Ahmet Altan and his brother, Professor Mehmet Altan, who were both arrested at the same time, in the same manner, and on the same allegations.

The AYM ruled on violations of Mehmet Altan’s rights, and the 2nd Criminal Division of Istanbul Regional Court of Justice ordered his release on June 27 last year.

“On the basis of its procedures and the latest decisions rendered, it is sadly clear that the AYM prefers to make new rights violations rather than to put an end to existing rights violations,” the lawyer said in the petition.

“Beyond the rights and freedoms of Ahmet Altan, Turkey’s democratic system and state of law are under threat. The AYM has lost its function as a viable legal option for seeking remedy,” she warned.

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