12 September 2016
The arrest of writer and journalist, Ahmet Altan, and his brother Mehmet Altan, a prominent academic, is yet another illustration that Turkey’s freedom of expression situation has reached a crisis point, PEN International said today. PEN calls for all charges against Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan to be dropped immediately and unconditionally and all others held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
According to the state-run Anadolu press agency the brothers were detained early on Saturday morning over allegations of spreading “subliminal messages announcing a military coup” in relation to a TV interview on 14 July, the day before the failed coup attempt in Turkey. Ahmet Altan was also the editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Taraf for five years until 2012. The newspaper was accused of having close links to the network of Fethullah Gülen and is one of over 100 media outlets that have been ordered closed since the coup attempt on 15 July. The Can Erzincan channel, which aired their interview, has also since been shut down as part of a far-reaching probe into the failed coup attempt.
Ahmet Altan is also currently on trial on charges of acquiring and divulging state secrets, membership of, and administration of a terrorist organisation, charges which PEN believe are politically motivated.
Dozens of writers, journalists, academics and publishers from across the globe have released a statement in support of the two brothers, calling for their immediate release.
‘In the aftermath of [the coup attempt] it is understandable that the government would have imposed a temporary state of emergency. However, the failed coup should not be a pretext for a McCarthy-style witch hunt nor should that state of emergency be conducted with scant regard for basic rights, rules of evidence or even common sense.
We as writers, academics and defenders of freedom of expression are particularly disturbed to see colleagues we know and respect being imprisoned under emergency regulations’, the letter reads.
You can read the full letter here.