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.

Mehmet Altan files compensation case over unjust imprisonment

Mehmet Altan files compensation case over unjust imprisonment

Granting 10 days for Altan’s lawyer to present relevant evidence, the court adjourned the trial until December 


A compensation case filed by journalist, columnist and academic Mehmet Altan, seeking compensation for his unjust detention between 2016 and 2018 as part of the Altans trial, was held at the Istanbul Anadolu 11th High Criminal Court on 10 September 2020. The next hearing in the compensation case will take place on 2 December.

Pursuant to Article 141 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK), Altan is seeking compensation for his unjust detention between 2016 and 2018 as part of the Altans trial, where he was acquitted in 2019.

Mehmet Altan was arrested on 10 September 2016 along with his brother, novelist and former Editor-in-Chief of the shuttered Taraf newspaper Ahmet Altan, as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016. Altan was brought before the İstanbul 10th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 22 September, where the judge ordered him be jailed pending trial on the grounds that “he worked for media outlets allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen network,” which the government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt, “even though he had known about the coup attempt beforehand,” and that he allegedly insinuated the coup attempt during a program he appeared on the night on 14 July 2016 on private broadcaster Can Erzincan TV along with his brother Ahmet Altan and journalist Nazlı Ilıcak. 

Soon after their imprisonment, lawyers for Mehmet and Ahmet Altan filed separate applications with the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. The Constitutional Court application filed on behalf of Mehmet Altan was reviewed in January 2018 and the ECtHR rendered its judgment concerning Altan’s application in March 2018. Both courts ruled that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated. However, Mehmet Altan was not released until June 2018. 

In her petition seeking compensation of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages suffered by her client, Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu wrote: 

“My client was taken into custody, imprisoned, and a month after this unjust investigation was initiated, he was dismissed with a statutory decree from the university he had been employed at for 30 years; his salaries were no longer paid; his insurance was terminated; despite the Plenary of the Constitutional Court finding a violation of 3 separate constitutional rights while the trial was in progress, he was not released; he was sentenced to aggravated life in prison; nevertheless, during the 22nd month of his imprisonment, he was released under judicial control measures; the Supreme Court ordered his acquittal, the trial court ruled for his acquittal; and eventually this judgment became final. However, as of this day, when we are filing this compensation case, the case he filed against his dismissal has not reached a conclusion; he has not been able to return to his university and students; he has not been able to receive his unpaid salary, his retirement grant; and his cancelled passport has not been returned. 

 “Even though the court’s judgment of acquittal became final on 12 November 2019, despite all the attempts, his international travel ban was not lifted until 21 January 2020. A confusion that could not be solved for months occurred between the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Regional Court of Appeals, which imposed the ban, and the 26th High Criminal Court, which lifted the ban. While the Supreme Court was claiming to have lifted the international travel ban, it became apparent 70 days later that the ban was still in place. However, the bureaucratic procedures relating to the lifting of the restriction are still ongoing.”

Mehmet Altan was in attendance at the hearing held on 10 September.

Recounting the persecution he endured, Altan told the court that even though the conditions to justify a detention are clearly stipulated in the Constitution, rulings conflicting these conditions were given and that the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul rejected to implement the Constitutional Court’s judgment, although it is binding, and that at the end of the proceedings, he was handed down an aggravated life sentence.

Altan continued: “The presiding judge and one of the members of the court did not shy away from repeatedly refusing to implement the Constitutional Court judgment. There exists an ulterior motive under this insistence to resist the Constitution and laws and in this persistent restriction of a person’s liberty. It is inconceivable to interpret this incidence as resulting from an honest misunderstanding of law. My forced imprisonment and all the heavy losses I subsequently suffered through a breach of the Constitution was deliberately planned and executed. The prosecutor who conducted the investigation, the judge who ruled for my detention, the 26th High Criminal Court, which sentenced me to life in prison, the appellate court that upheld the aggravated imprisonment, deliberately acted against the law.

“What I endured is a scandal. And unfortunately it was committed deliberately by a handful of people within the judiciary.”

Taking the stand after Altan, lawyer Çalıkuşu requested time to present the relevant evidence to the court.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court granted 10 days for the complainant Mehmet Altan to present evidence supporting his compensation claim. The court also ruled to send the file to an expert to determine the amount of pecuniary compensation once the relevant evidence is submitted and set 2 December 2020 as the date for the next hearing.


Details on the judicial procedure against Mehmet Altan can be accessed here.