Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Twitter late on Jan. 12 the Constitutional Court had overstepped the limits set out in the law by ruling to release two journalists on the grounds that their rights had been violated while in custody.
“The Constitutional Court has carried out an independent evaluation and one by one, it has gone beyond the boundaries drawn out by the constitution. This is not a decision regarding a violation of rights, it is a decision for acquittal. The Constitutional Court does not have the authority to make acquittals,” Bozdağ said.
The court on Thursday ruled in favor of releasing the two journalists, Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, who had been in prison for over a year after the July 2016 coup attempt.
Altan and Alpay are accused of “links to terrorist groups” and “attempting to overthrow the government.” The two have denied the charges.
“The Constitutional Court has the right to decide on individual applications. But when the Constitutional Court decides on this issue, it cannot act like a first-instance court or appeals court. This is not what the Constitutional Court does. The Constitutional Court has its designated authority and duty boundaries,” Bozdağ added.
An Istanbul prosecutor sought aggravated life sentences for each of the six suspects in December last year in the case probing the “media wing” of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). Among the suspects were Altan, his brother Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three others who are currently under arrest and face aggravated jail terms for “violating the constitution” and “having prior knowledge of the coup.”
Around 160 journalists are currently in jail in the country, according to the Turkish Journalists’ Association.
Many of the jailed reporters have been charged with spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the network of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have masterminded the coup attempt.
European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Jan. 12 that there would be “no progress” in Ankara’s relations with the European Union “as long as journalists are detained in Turkey.”