Euro court says rights of journalists Alpay and Altan violated

Euro court says rights of journalists Alpay and Altan violated

Euro court says rights of journalists Alpay and Altan violated

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on March 20 ruled that the right to liberty and the right freedom of expression of Turkish journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan have been violated. 

The decision stated that “the investigating authorities had been unable to demonstrate any factual basis” that indicate that both journalists “had committed the offenses with which he was charged.”

It also said both journalists’ freedom of expression rights, protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, were severely violated and arresting individuals for expressing their opinions is a “severe measure.”

The court also held that Turkey was to pay both Alpay and Altan 21,500 euros each for non-pecuniary damage.

According to Veysel Ok, who filed the ECHR application on behalf of Alpay together with lawyer Ferat Çağıl and who was part of a team of lawyers that made the application for Altan, the ruling “came very late.”

“The court has taken more than a year to issue the ruling despite knowing that a conviction was imminent for Altan and that the lower courts ignored the Turkish Constitutional Court ruling,” said Ok, who is also the co-founder of Istanbul-based Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

“Regardless, it proves a second time that both Altan and Alpay’s detention was unlawful,” Ok said, adding that Altan should be released immediately.

The Constitutional Court had ruled in January that Alpay and fellow jailed journalist Altan should be released on the grounds that their rights had been violated.

The ECHR criticized that both were kept in pre-trial detention even after the Constitutional Court’s judgment.

The Euro court said although that it will be “watching the Constitutional Court more closely,” it still accepted individual applications to Turkey’s top court as an effective remedy. It also said the Constitutional Court had too high a caseload and the Altan and Alpay applications were “complex,” ruling that it was understandable for the court to have taken long to decide on the cases.

Alpay was released on March 17 following a second ruling by Turkey’s top court, while Altan was handed a life sentence on Feb. 16 over charges of links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), who is blamed for the 2016 failed coup, together with his brother Ahmet Altan, who is also a writer, and veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak.

They were given life sentences for "having links to terrorist groups” and “attempting to overthrow the government,” charges they have denied.