Amnesty campaign calls for immediate release of veteran Turkish journalist

The UK based non-governmental organization Amnesty International has started a campaign calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the prominent Turkish journalist and author Ahmet Altan, who was recently sentenced to over 10 years in jail on terror-related offenses.

Amnesty International is a global movement of over 7 million people in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end violations of human rights.

Altan, the 69-year-old former editor-in-chief of now-defunct Taraf daily, was re-arrested earlier this month, only a week after his release from prison.

He had been in prison since his arrest that took place months after a failed military coup attempt targeting Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on July 15, 2016.

Ankara accuses the faith-based Gulen movement, led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt and designates the group as a terrorist organization.

Although Gulen and his followers strongly deny any links to the putsch bid, tens of thousands of the movement’s perceived and real members have been imprisoned pending trial in the aftermath of the event.

Less than a week after the failed coup bid, the governing AKP declared a state of emergency that lasted for two years, dismissing or suspending some 150,000 people from the public sector while jailing scores of journalists, authors, judges and prosecutors among others.

Altan, whose case has become a symbol of the post-coup crackdown on the media in Turkey, was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organization without being its member on November 4.

Amnesty on Tuesday noted in a campaign entitled “Turkey: Free Author Ahmet Altan,” where it urged the public to pen a letter addressed to Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul, that he was “a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

The NGO also said that Altan’s arrest and detention “give every appearance of being politically motivated, arbitrary, and incompatible with the right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR] that prohibits all arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

Altan has been jailed “solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression”, the organization also underlined in a model letter published for those who would take action and write an appeal urging the veteran journalist’s immediate release.

The Amnesty concluded in its statement encouraging urgent action about the situation of Altan that his “continued arbitrary detention in prison is a serious violation of his right.”

They further stated that Altan had consistently rejected charges leveled at him and had proven he had no intention of fleeing during his week of freedom.

Turkey, which ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index, arrested more than 160 journalists and closed 170 media outlets, leaving nearly 3,000 journalists jobless, in the wake of the failed coup.

The International Press Institute (IPI) said in a report earlier this month that Turkey is the world’s “undisputed leading jailer of journalists” with more than 120 journalists currently behind bars.

IPI added that hundreds more face prosecution on terrorism-related offenses, raising concerns about the situation of the media in the country which has not improved since the end of the state of emergency last year.

Veteran journalists Altan, Ilicak released after more than three years in prison

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