Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Case against judges who refused to implement top court judgments sent to Supreme Court

Case against judges who refused to implement top court judgments sent to Supreme Court

The compensation case filed by Mehmet Altan against the judges who refused to implement the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights judgments was transferred to the Supreme Court of Appeals after the trial court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

A compensation case filed by academic and writer Mehmet Altan against the former judges of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court and the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court, who refused to implement the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments got underway in Istanbul this week. The first hearing of the case was held at the Istanbul 40th High Criminal Court on 2 December 2021.

P24 monitored the hearing. Plaintiff Mehmet Altan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance while the defendant judges Seval Alaçam, Kemal Selçuk Yalçın and Mehmet Akif Ayaz, and the lawyers for the Ministry of Treasury and Finance were not present.

Recalling Article 141 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK), which regulates the right of individuals who suffer losses during the investigation and prosecution to file a motion for compensation, Altan stated that the judges on trial had refused to comply with the procedural rules. In his statement, Altan said: “I went through a legal process in which procedural rules were ignored, and arbitrary judicial proceedings were carried out, paying heavy prices. For years, I was imprisoned due to the practices proven to be unjust by top court judgments. Moreover, despite the Constitutional Court judgment, which found a rights violation, the court refused to recognize this decision and continued to keep me in pre-trial detention unconstitutionally.” 

“The persons named in this case sentenced me to ‘aggravated life imprisonment’ in accordance with Article 309 of the TCK [Turkish Penal Code], which stipulates the element of ‘force and violence,’ despite the AYM judgment, which found three counts of violations,” Altan said, adding: “Moreover, they did not hesitate to put down ‘immaterial force’ in the reasoned judgment in writing. As you surely know much better than I do, there is no such crime as ‘immaterial force’ in our laws. Handing down aggravated life imprisonment for a crime that does not exist already falls within ‘arbitrary judicial disposition’ in its own right.”

"The judges violated the Constitution"

Stating that he was deliberately victimized during the trial process, Altan said: “This trial concerns the people who intentionally persecuted me and committed a constitutional crime and brazenly violated Article 152 of the Constitution by not complying with the Constitutional Court’s decisions, even though I should not have been even called in to the police station, as was highlighted in the Constitutional Court, the ECtHR and the Supreme Court of Appeals judgments. This case is not a regular compensation case. The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey states that the state is governed by the rule of law. The case I have been living through, however, completely ignores this.”

“I hope that your court will punish the practices that have undermined the law, the rule of law, and the constitutional order -- at least to some extent. The people on trial here arbitrarily kept me in prison, ignoring the AYM judgment. Will all this be considered normal? Your court’s decision will not only rule on a compensation case but will set an example to prevent people who are prone to disregarding the rule of law in Turkey from committing crimes,” Altan said. 

Following Altan, his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu addressed the court. “Judges render decisions based on the constitution, the law, and their personal convictions. This case, however, was decided on assumptions. The court refused to hear the witnesses and did not accept the documents on perjury that we submitted to the case file,” Çalıkuşu asserted.

Lawyer Çalıkuşu said Altan’s right of defence was also hindered throughout the trial and demanded that the judges who breached the Criminal Procedure Code and the law be punished.

The presiding judge said that the cases brought against the judges were held at the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, upon which the trial prosecutor and lawyer Çalıkuşu left it to the discretion of the court whether the present case should be overseen by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case and sent the case file to the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals. In the event that the Chamber upholds the said decision and accepts the case file, the case against judges Seval Alaçam, Kemal Selçuk Yalçın and Mehmet Akif Ayaz will be merged with the case Altan filed against judge Orkun Dağ, also overseen by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Background

On 22 September 2016, Mehmet Altan was arrested on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The Constitutional Court and the ECtHR rendered their judgments concerning the individual applications lodged on behalf of Altan, finding rights violations, on 11 January 2018 and 20 March 2018, respectively. The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court, which was overseeing the “Altans case” at the time, dismissed Altan’s request for his release pending trial, and thus, refused to implement the top court’s judgment. The objection Altan’s lawyers filed against this decision with the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court, the next court of first instance, was also rejected.

Mehmet Altan was held in pre-trial detention for another five-and-a-half months despite the Constitutional Court and ECtHR judgments and was eventually acquitted of all charges at the end of the retrial of the “Altans case.” Mehmet Altan’s lawyer filed a compensation case against Kemal Selçuk Yalçın and Mehmet Akif Ayaz, the presiding judge and judge of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court of the time, and Orkun Dağ and Seval Alaçam, the presiding judge and judge of the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court of the time.

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