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.

Statement by lawyers for Ahmet and Mehmet Altan

Statement by lawyers for Ahmet and Mehmet Altan

“Two Istanbul courts find grounds for “aggravated life sentence” in file where Constitutional Court and ECtHR find no incriminating evidence”


In a country where the rule of law prevails, the Supreme Court of Appeals is naturally the next judicial authority that will review a decision by the Appellate Court. This is certainly how we defense lawyers see it.

However, we have been discouraged by several incidents that we encountered in this process – incidents what could almost be labeled as manifestations of “anti-law”. We hope that such incidents that obliterate the rule of law and the likes of which we have never witnessed throughout our long careers will quickly come to an end.

We find ourselves obliged to make this statement as a result of those incidents.

The reasoned judgment for the “aggravated life sentences” for our clients Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, as upheld on 2 October by the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, has just been issued. This carelessly written 42-page document was made public through news agencies on 17 October and is full of errors. The bulk of the document comprises a summary of the case file while the rest is made up of excerpts from other case files copied here through a “cut-and-paste” approach.

So much so that it includes news clippings and columns from the Zaman newspaper, which has no relevance to the present case. The document even refers to Ali Bulaç, a defendant in the Zaman trial who was acquitted of the “coup” charge and released from prison, as being “currently on trial and in detention on remand.”

The Appellate Court’s judgment is found in three paragraphs on page 41. Those three paragraphs easily reveal that the appellate court did not properly review the trial court’s decision, defying the intended purpose behind the establishment of appellate courts.

In order to prevent the defamation of our clients by this reasoned judgment as well as the manipulation of public opinion, we find it necessary to state the following objections:

Since stage one, the proceedings have been carried out in defiance of procedural provisions and the principle of a fair trial. The imputed offense under Article 309/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code was subjected to a de facto modification in defiance of the intention of the legislative body. Judgments rendered by the 16th Criminal Chamber and the General Assembly of Criminal Chambers under the Supreme Court of Appeals constitute binding precedents in respect of the imputed offense of “coup attempt,” yet in the present case, these judgements have been disregarded.

The judgment rendered by the Plenary of the Constitutional Court, which is “final and binding,” has been unacceptably ignored. The judgment rendered on 20 March 2018 by the European Court of Human Rights, which operates in connection with the Council of Europe, and whose rulings are binding for Turkey -- a member state -- has also been ignored.

The reasoned judgment neither makes reference to the judgment of the Constitutional Court, nor the one rendered by the European Court of Human Rights. 

The reasons for appeal and unlawfulness will certainly be explained in full in our application before the Supreme Court of Appeals, but we also owe the general public this statement.

We find it useful to illustrate the legal circumstances we are currently facing through the case of our client Mehmet Altan: 

The case file concerning Mehmet Altan was brought before four different courts. Both the Constitutional Court’s Plenary and the European Court of Human Rights held that Mehmet Altan “could not even be taken into custody” based on the court file and held that “there was no incriminating evidence” therewithin. Based on the exact same file, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul and the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice gave Mehmet Altan “aggravated life imprisonment.” 

We respectfully assert that the reasoned judgment issued on 17 October 2018 is a judgment issued by such an approach.

Attorney Ergin Cinmen

Attorney Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu