İstanbul courts refuse to enforce high court ruling to release Altan, Alpay

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İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts on Thursday evening refused to comply with an order from Turkey’s Constitutional Court for the release of jailed journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, according to the Haberler news website.

The Constitutional Court had ruled earlier on Thursday that jailed journalists Altan and Alpay be released, saying their rights had been violated.

Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University and a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government, and Alpay, a veteran journalist and columnist for the now-closed Zaman and Today’s Zaman dailies, were jailed in a crackdown on media after an abortive coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

However, İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts have refused to release the journalists, ruling that their arrests continue because “the top court has not released the reasoning of its decision.” The lower courts’ decisions were made after the formal text of the Constitutional Court’s rulings were posted on its official site.

P24 tweeted on Thursday night that the lower courts, where Alpay and Altan have been standing trial, have decided to wait for the high court to formally communicate its decisions.

The two are charged with membership in a terrorist organization, abetting a coup against the government and attempting to destroy the constitutional order. Prosecutors also accuse the suspects of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, blamed by the Turkish government of having masterminded the putsch.

Mehmet Altan was arrested along with his brother Ahmet Altan, a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the closed-down Taraf daily, on charges of sending “subliminal messages” to coup plotters in a TV program on July 14, a day before the coup attempt.

Both deny the charges lodged against them.

Ahead of the hearing, lawyers had said the decision could set a precedent for dozens of other journalists being tried in Turkey.

Lawyer Veysel Ok, who made the application to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Alpay, said the top court’s decision could be a milestone for the trials of journalists in Turkey.

“This ruling, which came in the first application after the failed coup attempt, should set a precedent for all trials,” said Ok, adding, “I hope this ruling becomes the first step of a broader right to freedom of expression in the country.”

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