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’s extended detention violated his rights, top court rules

Mehmet Altan’s extended detention violated his rights, top court rules

Altan to receive TL 30,000 in compensation for not being released from prison for 6 months despite Constitutional Court judgment

The Constitutional Court ruled that writer and academic Mehmet Altan’s rights were violated when he was kept in pre-trial detention for another six months following the top court’s January 2018 ruling, which held that his detention on remand violated his rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression.

The court ruled that Mehmet Altan be paid TL 30,000 in compensation.

In its judgment dated 9 January 2020, the First Section of the Constitutional Court referred to the European Court of Human Rights and Supreme Court of Appeals case-law, asserting that judgments by the High Court were binding and final. The First Section wrote in their judgment that courts of first instance were tasked with eliminating the rights violations determined by the Constitutional Court, not discussing the top court’s jurisdiction.

On 11 September 2018, the Plenary of the Constitutional Court had ruled that Mehmet Altan’s pre-trial detention since 22 September 2016 was in violation of his rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression and freedom of the press. However, both the trial court and the next court of first instance had refused to release Altan despite the Constitutional Court’s judgment. Altan’s lawyers lodged a second application with the Constitutional Court on 30 March 2018. Altan was finally released on 27 June 2018 by a ruling of the appellate court.

Meanwhile on 20 March 2018, the ECtHR also ruled on Mehmet Altan’s application, again ruling that his re-trial detention was in violation of his rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression.

On 5 July 2019, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life imprisonment Altan was given by the trial court, ruling that instead Altan should be acquitted. In its judgment, the Supreme Court also highlighted the binding nature of the Constitutional Court’s judgments.

The latest judgment by the Constitutional Court once again emphasized that rulings by higher courts were final and binding also according to the ECtHR and the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul refusing to release Altan was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judgment stressed that courts of first instance had to bring an end to a detention following a Constitutional Court ruling determining a rights violation and where the prerequisites for arrest are non-existent. “It can also be accepted that even in rather exceptional situations where new finds may lead to a strong indication that a crime was committed, the requirements of a violation decision are to be fulfilled. However the discretion of the trial court on this matter is fairly limited compared to the initial arrest. The final decision to determine whether or not the strong indication has been proven with new finds belongs to the Constitutional Court,” the judgment read.

Stating that Mehmet Altan’s detention despite the Constitutional Court’s decision was a violation of Altan’s freedoms safeguarded by the Constitution, the Constitutional Court ordered a compensation of TL 30,000 to be paid to Altan.

On the other hand, judge Serdar Özgüldür, who casted a dissenting vote, argued that Altan’s release by the appellate court had fulfilled the High Court’s decision.