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. On September 10, 2016, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan were arrested in a dawn raid, 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 though Ahmet was re-arrested on September 23. The brothers were indicted, along with fellow journalist Nazli Ilicak, on April 17, 2017.

On February 16, 2018, the 26th High Criminal Court in Istanbul convicted Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through the use of force and violence. Ahmet, Mehmet, and Nazli—along with three other journalists—were sentenced to life in prison.

On June 27, 2018 the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice ordered Mehmet Altan’s immediate release, basing its ruling on the Turkish Constitutional Court’s January 2018 ruling that Altan’s personal liberty and security and the freedom of the press were being violated by his continued imprisonment while his case is being considered.  Although he was released that evening, Altan must report weekly to the local police to sign in and he is under a travel ban.  His co-defendants in the case remain in prison, and their appeal will be heard starting on September 21, 2018.

CASE Updates

June 27, 2018: An appeals court in Istanbul orders Mehmet Altan’s immediate release. 

February 16, 2018: the 26th High Criminal Court in Istanbul convicts Ahmet and Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through the use of force and violence. Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, along with Nazli Ilicak, are sentenced to life in prison.

June 19, 2017: the trial of the Altan brothers begins. 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. 

April 17, 2017: Ahmet and Mehmet are both indicted, along with fellow journalist Nazli Ilicak.

September 21, 2016: the court releases Ahmet Altan on probation. He is re-arrested on September 23. Both brothers have since remained in detention.

September 10, 2016: Ahmet and Mehmet Altan are arrested in a dawn raid 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.

March 2015: Ahmet Altan and four other journalists and editors stand accused of acquiring, destroying, and divulging documents concerning the security of the state and its political interests.

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

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

“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