Nine months. That’s how long brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan have been in pre-trail detention in Turkey. Prosecutors are demanding multiple life sentences for the brothers, who will face their first day in court on 19 June.
“The case against Ahmet and Mehmet Altan is deeply troubling. The ongoing judicial harassment of the Altans and other journalists puts ‘democratic’ Turkey in the same camp as some of the world’s most egregious dictatorships. The post-coup crackdown on freedom of expression and the press must be rolled back,” Melody Patry, head of advocacy, Index on Censorship said.
Ahmet Altan has written for several of the country’s most influential newspapers. He and his brother Mehmet, an academic, were arrested and are being held on suspicion of “spreading subliminal messages”, relating to an appearance Ahmet Altan made on a television talk show the night before the 15 July coup attempt.
Ahmet Altan is one of Turkey’s top journalists, having worked in every position from reporter to editor-in-chief at several newspapers, as well as a producer of television news. He was a columnist for daily newspapers including Hurriyet and Milliyet, and in 2007 he started Taraf, an opposition daily. In 2008 he was charged with “denigrating Turkishness” after he wrote an article dedicated to the victims of the Armenian genocide. He is also considered one of Turkey’s finest novelists, with his most recent book, Endgame, having been published last year.
Mehmet Altan is a professor at Istanbul university, where he has worked for 30 years. A vocal supporter of democracy, he has often called for Turkey to establish its republic on human rights, rather than religious or ethnic identity. He has written several books about politics in Turkey.
The pair were arrested in an early morning raid on 10 September. Ahmet had appeared on a talk show on the Can Erzincan television channel on 14 July, where he is accused of sending messages to viewers to support a coup. The channel has since been shut down. It was perceived by authorities to have been supportive of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government blames for the coup.