Turkey: Court set for judgement on Can Erzincan TV journalist’s pre-trial detention human rights complaint

Two journalists, held in pre-trial detention by Turkish authorities following the attempted military coup of July 2016, will find out next week, if Strasbourg judges back their human rights complaint.

The European Court of Human Rights will announce its decision in the case Altan v. Turkey (application no. 13237/17) and Alpay v. Turkey (no. 16538/17) on Tuesday 20 March.

The applicants, Mehmet Hasan Altan (application no. 13237/17) and Şahin Alpay (application no. 16538/17), are Turkish nationals who were born in 1953 and 1944 respectively.

They are currently in detention in Istanbul (Turkey).

Altan (application no. 13237/17) is an economics professor and a journalist. Prior to the attempted military coup of 15 July 2016, he presented a political discussion programme on Can Erzincan TV, a television channel that was closed down following the adoption of Legislative Decree no. 668, issued on 27 July 2016.

In the course of a criminal investigation relating to suspected members of FETÖ/PDY (“Gülenist Terror Organisation/Parallel State Structure”), Altan was arrested on 10 September 2016 and taken into police custody on suspicion of having links to the organisation’s media wing.

On 22 September 2016, he appeared before the Istanbul 10th Magistrate’s Court and was placed in pre-trial detention. On various dates, Altan applied without success to be released pending trial.

On 14 April 2017, the Istanbul public prosecutor filed an indictment with the Istanbul Assize Court in respect of several individuals including Altan, in particular accusing them, under Articles 309, 311 and 312 in conjunction with Article 220 § 6 of the Criminal Code, of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the government by force and violence, and of committing offences on behalf of a terrorist organisation without being members of it.

On 8 November 2016, Altan lodged an individual application with the Constitutional Court. On 11 January 2018, the Constitutional Court gave judgment, holding that there had been a violation of the right to liberty and security and the right to freedom of expression and of the press.

Despite the Constitutional Court’s judgment, the Istanbul Assize Court rejected Altan’s subsequent application for release.

On 16 February 2018, the Istanbul 26th Assize Court sentenced Altan to aggravated life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.

Altan relies on Article 5 §§ 1, 3, 4 and 5 (right to liberty and security) and Articles 10 (freedom of expression), 17 (prohibition of abuse of rights) and 18 (limitation on use of restriction of rights) in conjunction with Articles 5 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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