Legal Practice and Bar Associations – Where to now? By Dr. Kasım Akbaş

The Rule of Law in Turkey: Legal Practice and Bar Associations – Where to now? 

For PEN Norway’s Turkey Indictment Project, Dr. Kasım Akbaş has written an article on the Legal Practice and Bar Associations. He asks where to know?

Read the article in English and Turkish here:

Read all of the published reports from the Turkey Indictment Project here.

Legal Report on Indictment: Turkey v Berzan Güneş

Hannah Beck and Clarissa Fondi have looked into the indictment against journalist Berzan Güneş. 

PEN Norway – Berzan Gunes Report – EN

PEN Norway – Berzan Gunes Report – TR

This report is a part of PEN Norway’s Turkey Indictment Project. You can see more reports and read about the project here.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish Consulate in Istanbul and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Rule of Law in Turkey: Judicial Administration

Turkey Indictment Project: Dr. Orhan Gazi Ertekin has analyzed the Turkish Judicial Administration.

This article is part of PEN Norway’s Turkey Indictment Project. Read more about the project and the other reports here.

Download the article in English or Turkish below:

PEN Norway – Judicial Administration Article – EN

PEN Norway – Judicial Administration Article – TR

The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish Consulate in Istanbul and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Turkey indictment project: A thorough look at 12 recent indictments

12 recent Turkish indictments against human rights activists, journalists and cultural workers are being examined in a new project.

Reports and articles published so far: 

Türkçe versiyonu aşağıdadır

Do the indictments in the Gezi Park trial, Cumhuriyet trial or against Ahmet Altan meet international legal standards?

Working with lawyers and judges from all over Europe, PEN Norway has commissioned a series of reports into indictments that have taken place during the past 5 years in cases against the media, human rights activists and civil society in Turkey.

– Following our trial observations of the past few years, we were deeply concerned at the standard of indictment-writing in a large number of cases, specifically such trials as that of Gezi Park – Osman Kavala et al – and the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. The length of these indictments, at 657 and 256 pages respectively, led us to have concerns that defendantscases were being held up for a considerable time whilst these indictments were being written. In Osman Kavala’s case as long as 14 months, says PEN Norway’s Turkey Adviser and project lead Caroline Stockford.

12 indictment cases

PEN Norway has since Spring 2020 brought together legal experts from five different countries, including Norway, Austria and the United Kingdom, as well as academics and experts on the ground in Turkey to study indictments in 12 cases. PEN Norway has further commissioned articles on the history of and current state of the judicial system in Turkey as well as the mapping of the legal appeals process.

The study asks whether these indictments meet Turkish and international standards. We have brought on a team of excellent international lawyers and scholars with great knowledge of the law and Turkish society to examine 12 recent indictments, says Caroline Stockford.

Unique opportunity

The project will culminate in a final report which will put forward recommendations for streamlining and improving the standard of indictments in Turkey.

– This project is a unique opportunity to thoroughly look at the Turkish legal practice today. Legal organizations in and outside of Turkey have been increasingly worried about the judicial system for years. The crackdown on free speech in Turkey in the past few years has been a great cause for concern, General Secretary of PEN Norway, Hege Newth says.

– We are eager to hear the findings from our experts on whether these indictments meet a satisfying standard, and hope the recommendations from the project will be listened to, says Newth.

The reports will be published weekly from mid-September until the end of the year, beginning with a report on the case of journalist Nedim Türfent, now serving a prison sentence of 8 years, 9 months over one newspaper article. Forthcoming reports are on the indictments of Osman Kavala and Defendants in the Gezi Park trial, Deniz Yücel, the Cumhuriyet case, Pelin Ünker, Çiğdem Toker and the Büyükada indictment.

Global launch event

On September 30, 2020 PEN Norway will hold the global launch of our Turkey Indictment Project 2020. At this event, we have invited two panels of distinguished experts from Europe and Turkey to discuss the current crisis in the rule of law and avenues for practical and effective advocacy to mitigate the further erosion of the rule of law and profession of defense lawyers in Turkey.

For more information on our global launch event, which will feature two panels of experts discussing the current state of Turkey’s judicial system and the role and future of advocacy in Turkey and Europe, please contact: caroline@norskpen.no.

Register here for our global launch by emailing your name and company name to caroline@norskpen.no. Invitees will be capped at 100 participants.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Norveç PEN Türkiye İddianame Projesi başlıyor

30 Eylül’de gerçekleşecek Uluslararası açılış panelimize buradan kayıt olabilirsiniz.

Gezi Parkı davası, Cumhuriyet davası veya Ahmet Altan hakkındaki davada iddianameler uluslararası standartlara uyuyor mu?

Norveç PEN, Avrupa’dan avukatlar ve yargıçların bulunduğu bir ekiple çalışarak, son beş yılda Türkiye’de basın, insan hakları aktivistleri ve sivil toplum davalarındaki iddianameleri inceleyen bir rapor dizisi başlattı.

– Norveç PEN Türkiye danışmanı ve proje lideri olan Caroline Stockford’un belirttiği gibi: Geçtiğimiz yıllardaki dava gözlem deneyimlerimiz, birçok davadaki iddianame yazımıyla standartlarıyla ilgili derin bir endişeye yol açtı. Özellikle Gezi Parkı (Osman Kavala ve diğerleri) ve Cumhuriyet Gazetesi davalarında iddianame uzunluklarının sırasıyla 657 ve 256 olması, iddianamelerin hazırlanış süresinde tutuklu kalanlarla ilgili kaygılarımızı arttırıyor. Osman kavala örneğinde bu süre 14 aya kadar uzadı.

Norveç PEN, 2020 ilkbaharından bu yana Norveç, Birleşik Krallık, Avusturya gibi farklı ülkelerden hukuk uzmanlarının yanı sıra, Türkiye’den akademisyenler ve uzmanların bulunduğu bir ekibi bir araya getirdi. Bu ekiple 12 davanın iddianamelerinin incelemesiyle birlikte, Türkiye’deki yargı teşkilatı ve tarihiyle ilgili makaleler de hazırlıyoruz.

Bu proje kapsamında, son aşamada genel bir rapor hazırlanarak Türkiye’de iddianame standartlarıyla ilgili geliştirme önerileri getirilecek.

Norveç PEN genel sekreteri, Hege Newth’ın sözleriyle:  bu proje Türkiye’deki hukuk uygulamalarının detaylarına odaklanmak için eşsiz bir olanak sağlıyor. Türkiye içinde ve dışında bulunan hukuk kurumlarının yıllardır değişen yargı sistemiyle ilgili endişesi giderek artıyor. Türkiye’de son yıllarda ifade özgürlüğüne yönelik baskı, önemli bir endişe kaynağı. Ekibimizdeki uzmanların bu iddianamelerin standartlara uyumuyla ilgili bulgularını paylaşmak için sabırsızlanıyoruz ve sonunda getirilecek iyileştirme önerilerine kulak verileceğini umuyoruz.

Raporlar Eylül ayından başlayarak 2020 yılının sonuna kadar haftalık olarak yayınlanacak. İlk rapor, yazdığı bir makale yüzünden 8 yıl 9 aylık mahkumiyeti sürmekte olan gazeteci Nedim Türfent’in davası hakkında. İlerleyen raporlarda Gezi Parkı davası, Cumhuriyet, Pelin Ünker, Çiğdem Toker, Büyükada gibi davaların iddianameleri ele alınacak.

30 Eylül 2020’de, Norveç PEN, Türkiye İddianame Projesini tanıtmak amacıyla uluslararsı bir etkinlik düzenliyor. Bu etkinlik Avrupa ve Türkiye’den önde gelen uzmanların, hukukun üstünlüğüyle ilgili konuları tartıştığı 2 panel şeklinde gerçekleşecek. Hukukun üstünlüğü ile ilgili olumsuzlukların daha da derinleşmesinin önüne geçmek için pratik yollar geliştirilmeye çalışacak.

Etkinlikle ilgili daha fazla bilgi için bizimle şu e-mail adresinden irtibata geçebilirsiniz: caroline@norskpen.no

Etkinliğe kaydolmak için.

Bu proje, Norveç Dışişleri Bakanlığı, İstanbul İsveç Konsolosluğu ve Heinrich Böll Vakfı tarafından desteklenmektedir.

Turkey Indictment Project: Turkey v Nedim Türfent examined

Turkey v Nedim Türfent. For the Turkey Indictment Project, human rights lawyer Şerife Ceren Uysal has examined the indictment against journalist Nedim Türfent. 

See more about the project here. Download the report in English or Turkish below:

PEN Norway – Nedim Turfent Report – EN

PEN Norway – Nedim Turfent Report – TR

The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish Consulate in Istanbul and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Unblock Özgürüz, stop the harassment of Can Dündar

PEN Norway and 38 civil society organisations deplore decision to block Özgürüz and call for an end to the harassment of Can Dündar.
Can Dündar is the head of the radio station Özgürüz, which has been banned by Turkish authorities.

19 June 2020 – PEN Norway and 38 civil society organisations deplore the decision by a Turkish court to ban access to Germany-based online radio station Özgürüz (‘We Are Free’), which is headed by Can Dündar. We call on the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision, to stop the harassment of Dündar and to reform the country’s laws and judicial practice so that internet freedom can be guaranteed.

On 16 June, the Ankara 4th Criminal Court of the Peace banned access to the station and its website ozguruz20.org at the request of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (Radyo ve Televizyon Üst Kurulu, RTÜK), which apparently argued that the station was streaming radio illegally and reporting and streaming content against Turkey. RTÜK in an unofficial statement calls Dündar a ‘fugitive FETÖ suspect’ and refers to his trial over disclosing state documents and information and obtaining secret information for the purpose of espionage, although the latter charge was dismissed.

Dündar, a former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, said in response: ‘The Government, especially in the recent period, has taken control of information sources like the Turkish Statistical Institute and a huge portion of the news media; however it could not oversee media organisations like Özgürüz Radyo streaming freely from exile.’ He also announced that the radio will continue to broadcast on ozguruz21.org.

Internet freedom in Turkey is under sustained attack from the government and the routine unlawful blocking of websites, where this is not strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate objective, encroaches on the already limited space for independent media and dissenting voices.

Dündar has been the victim of judicial harassment by the Turkish authorities since 2015, with several criminal procedures on-going. He was detained between 26 November 2015 and 26 February 2016, and has been living in exile in Germany since December 2016. Özgürüz has been repeatedly blocked by the Turkish authorities in the past, including in January 2017, before it had started publishing news.

Signed:
PEN International
Albanian PEN
ARTICLE 19
Articolo 21
Association of European Journalists English PEN
Estonian PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Freedom House
German PEN
Hungarian PEN
Independent Chinese PEN Centre
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) International Press Institute (IPI)
Irish PEN / Freedom to Write Campaign
Japan PEN Club
Latvia PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) PEN Canada
PEN Centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina
PEN Eritrea
PEN Lebanon
PEN Melbourne
PEN Norway
PEN Québec
PEN Suisse Romand
PEN Turkey
PEN Uganda
PEN Venezuela
PEN Vietnam
Romanian PEN
San Miguel PEN
Scottish PEN
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) Swedish PEN
Swiss-German PEN
Trieste PEN
Wales PEN Cymru

904 days in prison: Free the political hostage Osman Kavala

Norwegian PEN President calls for Turkish civil society leader Kavala to be released from 904 days’ detention.
Den tyrkiske filantropen og aktivisten Osman Kavala ble arrestert 1. november 2017. Foto: Bianet

As of today, the civil society leader Osman Kavala has been in prison, in pre-trial detention for 904 days. Although he was acquitted of the fantastic charges in the Gezi case on February 19th 2020, he was rearrested that night and remains in prison in Silivri, Istanbul. The prosecutor of the Republic is now preparing a new indictment for a case against Kavala on espionage charges. The prosecutor is trying to infer that the Open Society Foundation grants to Turkey were used by Kavala to use overseas finance an attempt to destroy the Turkish constitutional order The Prosecutor for the Republic took over 1.5 years to prepare the indictment in the Gezi trial. To all the independent observers, public, lawyers, indeed anyone who followed the Gezi case it is clear that there is no justifiable legal reasoning behind any of the charges against Kavala. He is being held as a political hostage by the current regime. The European Court ruled strongly on December 10th, 2019, while Kavala was a defendant in the Gezi trial, that his incarceration was both politically motivated and a clear infringement of his rights to liberty and security and hist right to a fair trial.

Norwegian PEN monitored all 6 public hearings of the Gezi trial in Silivri prison in 2019 and 2020.

We call upon the government of Turkey to drop this charade and to uphold the rule of law.  Osman Kavala must be released immediately. His pretrial detention is illegal, unjustified and in light of the current threats to prisoners posed by the COVID-19 virus, is a danger to his health. Kavala is a civil society leader whose foundation has enabled hundreds of art and literature projects to be realised, forging artistic friendships between Turkey and Europe. The nationalist element in Turkey’s government seem to see any cooperation with Europe as suspicious, and yet Turkey’s judicial system itself benefits from European Commission grants for training in human rights and other areas.

Kavala must be freed forthwith and compensated for the 904 days stolen from him. We will continue to monitor the current bogus case against him and will study the forthcoming indictment very closely. The fact that there are so few media sources that are able to hold the government to account goes to show the press freedom is still a critical concern in Turkey. We call for the restoration of the rule of law and for press freedom in Turkey and for the release on bail of all political prisoners during the current pandemic. Free Osman Kavala.

What can you do? Write to Osman with a few words of support: 

Osman Kavala
Silivri Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
9 No’lu Cezaevi, A-7 / C 59
34570, Silivri/Istanbul
TURKEY

Please only include words of support for Kavala in your letter, as political messages are usually censored by the prison.

Read more about Osman Kavala on the campaign site

Twenty-four rights-groups call on Turkey to release all those arbitrarily detained, now at risk of Covid-19

Osman Kavala

In the early hours of Tuesday 14 April, the Turkish Parliament passed a law which will lead to the release of up to 90,000 prisoners. However, it excludes scores of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians, lawyers and others arbitrarily detained pending trial or serving sentences following unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws which facilitate incarceration for exercise of free speech.

While we welcome any measures taken to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons, the new measures unjustifiably exclude tens of thousands who are imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights.  ARTICLE 19, Punto24 and the 22 undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to take immediate steps to fulfill their human rights obligations by releasing all those arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and help mitigate the threat caused by the Covid-19 public health pandemic

The adoption of the law, which is part of the government’s judicial reform strategy announced in 2019, was fast-tracked in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons. The new law comes into force as Turkey’s Justice Ministry has announced the death of three prisoners from Covid-19 on 13 April. The new law does not apply to individuals in pre-trial detention and also excludes anyone convicted of terrorism-related crimes, espionage or crimes against the intelligence services – laws which are frequently used to prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and others. This means many thousands of individuals whose only crime is the exercise of their right to freedom of expression are effectively excluded from release and are at increased risk of contracting the disease in prison.

Among them are Ahmet Altan, 70, who is awaiting appeal after being sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member”, on the basis of his expression of political views, his previous role as editor of Taraf newspaper, and alleged contacts. It also includes businessman Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for over two and a half years, currently on the charge of “espionage” and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in prison since November 2016 and whose release has been repeatedly blocked despite a European Court decision ordering it. Journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser, were remanded in prison in March, on charges under the Law on National Intelligence Agency, in connection with their reporting on the death of an intelligence officer in Libya.

Turkey is subject to the authority of both the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the European Committee on the Prevention on Torture who respectively have issued calls to “reduce prison populations and other detention populations, wherever possible” and said concerted efforts by all relevant authorities to resort to alternatives to deprivation of liberty “ is imperative, in particular, in situations of overcrowding.”

We likewise urge the Turkish authorities to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation, which strongly recommends States give enhanced consideration to non-custodial measures at all stages of the administration of criminal justice, including at the pre-trial, trial and sentencing as well as post-sentencing stages. It also urges priority be given to conditional release, particularly for older persons, ill people, and others (including pregnant women) with specific risks related to Covid-19. The WHO has made it clear that without taking urgent measures in prisons to reduce the spread of the virus, efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 in the community are also likely to fail.

The Turkish courts frequently justify pre-trial detention on the grounds of flight risk or tampering with evidence. Given the closure of borders due to the pandemic, it is difficult to see what justification there is for holding individuals in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods in what is now an extremely high risk situation.

To protect the human rights of prisoners, including their right to life and health, and to protect the health of the public at large, the Turkish authorities should now enact immediate measures to release all those arbitrarily detained, whether in pre-trial detention or after conviction, particularly given many are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to their age or underlying health conditions. We urge the authorities to move now to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Failure to release those detained and imprisoned in unfair trials and on spurious charges, which would help reduce the spread of a deadly disease in detention, would show further alarming disregard for human rights by the Turkish government.

 

Signatories

ARTICLE 19
Punto24, Platform for Independent Journalism
Articolo21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
German PEN
Human Rights Watch
IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Federation of Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN America
PEN International
PEN Turkey
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TSLP)
Wan-Ifra / World Association of News Publishers

Turkey: Advertising ban on independent newspaper must be lifted

24 international and local press freedom organisations ask that BIK lift the advertising ban on independent newspaper Evrensel.
Screenshot of the Turkish newspaper Evrensel.

Rıdvan Duran,
General Director, Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK)
Merkez Efendi Mah. Mevlana Cad. No: 140/A
Toya Plaza Kat: 5 Zeytinburnu / İSTANBUL

March 16, 2020

Dear Mr. Duran,

On behalf of the 24 international and local press freedom organisations and signatories to this letter, we are writing to ask that Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK) swiftly lift the advertising ban currently imposed on the newspaper Evrensel.

Evrensel has been under an advertising ban since September, 2019, and if the ban remains in place for a full six months, until March 28, 2020, Evrensel faces being removed from the public advertising system for at least three years.

Such a decision would have a devastating impact on the finances of the newspaper, threatening its closure and weakening the diversity and pluralism of Turkey’s newspaper market.

In February you met with representatives of the International Press Institute (IPI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Journalists Syndicate of Turkey (TGS), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and assured them that the ban would be lifted as soon as Evrensel made the necessary changes to their distribution system so as not to fall foul of the bulk buying rules.

Evrensel have since made the changes requested of them, but have three times had their appeals refused after new audits conducted by BIK.

BIK was given a crucial democratic role when it was established in 1961 to provide support to the country’s newspaper sector through the even distribution of public advertising funds. The system has become essential to the survival of many newspapers as the economic pressures on the print industry have grown over the past decade.

BIK’s role is therefore vital to ensure the health, diversity and plurality of Turkey’s newspaper sector. Central to that is, of course, its policy to provide support regardless of a newspaper’s editorial line. Evrensel is known for its independent reporting and has, in recent years, been targeted for judicial harassment as a consequence.

In addition to the indefinite ban, since September BIK has also issued three other limited bans on Evrensel for alleged ‘press ethics violations’. Further penalties would strongly suggest that BIK is being used to punish Evrensel for its independent reporting.

We urge you therefore to make good on your promise and to ensure the prompt lifting of the ban on Evrensel prior to the end of the six month deadline.

We also take this opportunity to urge BIK to start publishing annual reports on the distribution of its funds that we understand amount to 450 million Turkish Lira of public funds and on the different disciplinary measures taken against newspapers. Providing transparency on BIK’s use of public funds would enable the public to verify that its money is used correctly and is consistent with the principles of supporting a pluralistic and democratic media environment.

Kind regards

Signatories:

Article 19
Articolo 21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Civic Space Studies Association – Turkey / Sivil Alan Araştırmaları Derneği
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
German PEN
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Journalists Union of Turkey
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN America
PEN International
P24
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

Altan-brødrene fortsatt fengslet: - Falske terroranklager, sier 22 menneskerettsorganisasjoner

Altan-brødrene og fire andre journalister og skribenter er fortsatt siktet for å støtte terrorisme etter ankerettssak i Istanbul.
Mehmet og Ahmet Altan. Foto: English PEN

Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı og Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül holdes fortsatt fengslet, og anklagene mot alle opprettholdes.

Nedenfor følger en uttalelse fra menneskerettighetsorganisasjonen Article 19. Norsk PEN er blant 22 organisasjoner som har tilsluttet seg kravet om å frafalle siktelsene mot alle seks, og løslate de som sitter fengslet.

Les bakgrunn og tidslinje for saken her.

Altans & others still in jail as retrial commences on new bogus terrorism charges

On 8 October, the retrial of journalists, writers and media workers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül on terrorism charges began at the High Penal Court No. 26 in Istanbul. The retrial on these charges was ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals in July 2019. ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) observed the opening hearing of the retrial. The court issued an interim decision ordering the continued detention of all defendants apart from Mehmet Altan, who had previously been released following decisions by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights that his rights had been violated. The cases of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak have been prioritised by the European Court of Human Rights, but are still pending. The undersigned organisations call for all defendants to be released, for the trial to be halted and all charges dropped given the lack of credible evidence presented in the indictment or referred to in the Supreme Court of Appeals decision.

No prima facie case

In July 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals quashed the defendants’ convictions for ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’. The decision stated there could be no causal link established between the evidence presented and the crime, an argument also made by ARTICLE 19 in an expert opinion presented to the trial court. The Supreme Court of Appeals did not issue any new charges against Mehmet Altan but held that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should be charged with ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’ and the other defendants, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül should be charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’. The undersigned organisations believe that these new terrorism charges violate the defendants’ right to freedom of expression and that the evidence which has been relied upon to pursue them is as unrelated to terrorism as it was to the sedition charges. We are concerned that the retrial forms yet another phase of the systematic judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey.

Concerns of bias at the trial

Concerns about the appearance of bias were raised by defence lawyers during the hearing. The panel of judges was the same as those who had refused to implement the earlier judgment of the Constitutional Court: that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated due to his pre-trial detention. The defence lawyers for Mehmet Altan have also been filing motions with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors for the removal of the panel of judges on the grounds that they were not impartial during the previous trial. ARTICLE 19 and RSF monitored all hearings in that trial and believe the case to have been politically-motivated and that the defendants’ rights to a fair trial were violated before and during proceedings.

Inconsistent Judgments at the Constitutional Court

In January 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that there had been a violation of the right to liberty and security, and the right to freedom of expression in the case of Mehmet Altan, but in July 2019 the court ruled that there had been no violation of these rights in the case of Ahmet Altan. While the evidence presented against Ahmet and Mehmet Altan is not strictly identical, it is hard to see how the evidence presented against Ahmet Altan, which consists mainly of his articles and speeches, could justify any criminal charges let alone terrorism-related charges. Indeed, five Constitutional Court judges dissented on the case of Ahmet Altan, including the presiding judge. While the European Court of Human Rights has considered the Constitutional Court capable of being an effective remedy to human rights violations, we believe that in this case the Constitutional Court has not provided an effective remedy due to the inconsistency of decision making. We are also concerned about the lack of implementation of its decision regarding Mehmet Altan by the trial court.

Impact of European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the trial

The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision in Mehmet Altan’s case in March 2018. The Court found that the applicant’s rights to liberty and security and to freedom of expression had been violated. In so doing, it endorsed the decision of the Constitutional Court that Mehmet Altan’s pre-trial detention had been unjustified. This decision has had a clear impact on the outcome of the trial of Mehmet Altan: the Supreme Court of Appeals referred to the rulings of both the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in support of its decision to quash Mehmet Altan’s conviction on charges of ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’. The European Court has yet to rule on the applications of Ahmet Altan and other journalists and members of civil society, such as Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for over 700 days detained on politically motivated charges. We believe that a ruling from the European Court could have a decisive impact on the current criminal proceedings against them. Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19, Sarah Clarke said:

“We are increasingly seeing disturbingly inconsistent decisions issued by the Constitutional Court, raising the spectre of political interference. At the same time, the rights of Ahmet Altan and others continue to be flagrantly violated. We believe the role of the ECtHR in identifying rights violations in these cases is critical and we hope to see the court review these cases as a matter of urgency, especially in light of the dissenting opinions at the Constitutional level in the case of Ahmet Altan”

We, the undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to release, halt the trial and drop these baseless charges against the defendants immediately. 

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Amnesty International
  • Articulo 21
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Civic Space Studies Association
  • Danish PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • English PEN
  • Freedom House
  • German PEN
  • Global Editors Network (GEN)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Norwegian PEN
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN