In Turkey every writer is at risk. You can be sentenced or shot. They put you in jail. Up to that point, you write. – Ahmet Altan, in Little Atoms

BACKGROUND

Ahmet Altan is a prominent novelist, essayist, and journalist. He served as the founding editor-in-chief of Taraf, a liberal daily newspaper, from 2007 -2012. His brother Mehmet has been a Professor of Economics at Istanbul University since 1986. He is also a journalist, a prolific author, and a human rights defender. 

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

SEPTEMBER 2016: Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were arrested in a dawn raid on September 10, 2016, as part of a wave of arrests of thinkers and writers following the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Their alleged crime consists of giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a television panel show broadcast the night before the coup attempt. On September 21, the court released Ahmet Altan on probation. He was re-arrested on September 23. Both brothers have been in pre-trial detention ever since. On April 17, 2017, the brothers were indicted, along with fellow journalist Nazli Ilicak, and their trial began on June 19, 2017. Altogether 17 defendants have been grouped together in this trial, 11 of whom have fled the country. The other six, including the Altans and Ilicak, remain in detention while the trial is ongoing. If convicted, they face aggravated life sentences.

CASE HISTORY

JULY 2013: On July 18, 2013, Ahmet Altan was found guilty of defamation for a January 19, 2012, editorial piece he published in Taraf: “Morality and Enabling the State.” He was initially sentenced to 11 months in prison, but the sentence was commuted to a 2,800 Euro fine. He has faced various other defamation charges in connection with his work, both his provocative journalism and sensual novels.

MARCH 2015: As of September 2016, Ahmet Altan was still on trial in a separate case which began in March 2015, related to his previous work as editor-in-chief of Taraf. Along with two other editors and two journalists he is accused of acquiring, destroying, and divulging documents concerning the security of the state and its political interests.

FREE EXPRESSION IN TURKEY

Following the violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016, freedom of expression has rapidly deteriorated in Turkey. Over 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree following the imposition of a state of emergency. There are now at least 148 writers, journalists, and media workers in prison, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world

In Their Words

It is true that the charges against us are ludicrous. They make no sense but the problem is today that this nonsense has become the lifestyle in Turkey. It is as if I live on a desert island. I feel like Robinson Crusoe but I don’t know if my ship will ever arrive. – Ahmet Altan, in The Guardian