Government tells ECtHR that Constitutional Court rulings are “final” concerning imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay; all eyes on Strasbourg
The Turkish government on January 29, 2018, submitted its comments in respect of letters sent earlier this month to the European Court of Human Rights by lawyers representing imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay.
The letters concerned the latest developments in both Altan’s and Alpay’s cases, where the courts of first instance overseeing both journalists’ trials refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s January 11 rulings that held that Altan and Alpay’s pretrial detentions violated their rights to personal liberty and freedom of expression.
Summarizing the course of events since Altan and Alpay were taken into custody, including a lengthy section as to the Constitutional Court’s January 11 rulings, the government in both of its comments pointed out the Article 153 of the Turkish Constitution, which provides that “decisions of the Constitutional Court are final.” The letters went on to say that when the Constitutional Court delivers a judgment finding a violation, “The relevant judgment shall be submitted to the lower instance courts for the purposes of the elimination of the consequences of the violation. Accordingly, it is incumbent on the lower instance courts to determine the manner in which the relevant violation will be eliminated.”
Referring to decisions rendered by the next courts of first instance, which reviewed and rejected objections by lawyers representing both journalists, the government said that both Altan and Alpay were “still being held in detention in accordance with a court decision.”
The government also said in its comments: “The applicant’s lawyer maintains that the judgment of the Constitutional Court was not executed. The allegation of the applicant's lawyer mainly relates to non-execution of a court decision. Accordingly, the applicant raise a complaint in the communication letter, which is different from the allegations he submitted before the Government.” It added that this could be “the subject matter of an application which must be lodged in an ordinary manner.”
It also said that both the Constitutional Court judgments and the rulings of the lower courts to have been rendered through majority votes demonstrated “that the applicant's detention was negotiated and assessed by the courts in detail.”
As to comments made by politicians concerning court rulings, the government said, “The fact that a number of decisions issued by the courts [to] have been discussed by the public should not be interpreted as meaning that these discussions had an impact on the courts.”
Attorney Ferat Çağıl, who is on the team of lawyers representing Altan and Alpay, recalled that the European Court of Human Rights has decided to take up the pending individual applications lodged on behalf of Altan and Alpay with priority. Çağıl said the non-implementation of Constitutional Court judgments caused further rights violations and procedural action on the case files were now complete, adding that they were now expecting the European Court to render its decisions without delay.The next hearing in the case where Mehmet Altan is on trial will be held on February 12-16 at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul and Alpay’s next hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2018, at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.