(New York, NY) — PEN America today welcomed the news that Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan has been released from prison after spending more than four years behind bars on bogus charges related to the country’s failed 2016 coup attempt.

“Ahmet Altan has been subject to years of unjust harassment and imprisonment,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of free expression at risk programs at PEN America. “This day is long overdue, but we are thrilled to see him walk free, and call on the Turkish government to ensure his rights to speak freely and return to his work are guaranteed. Clearly, Ahmet should have never been jailed in the first place, and we see his freedom as merely a first step. The Turkish government must abide by the court’s decision and work to release the dozens of artists, writers, and dissidents who continue to languish unfairly behind bars.”

Altan and his brother Mehmet, a professor of economics, were originally detained in September 2016. They were charged with attempting to overthrow the “constitutional order,” “interfering with the work of the national assembly,” and “interfering with the work of the government” through violence or force. Read more about Ahmet and Mehmet Altan’s case.

Following the July 2016 coup attempt and the imposition of a state of emergency by the current government, freedom of expression has come under severe pressure in Turkey. According to PEN America’s inaugural Freedom to Write Index, Turkey ranked as the world’s third highest jailer of writers and intellectuals, with at least 30 cases of detainment or imprisonment of writers during 2019. PEN America’s 2020 edition of the Freedom to Write Index will publish later this month.