The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has condemned the Tuesday re-arrest of well-known Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, 69, one week after his release from prison, saying that the development further damages the credibility of the Turkish judiciary.
Altan’s re-arrest came shortly after a Turkish court on Tuesday reversed a previous ruling to release the journalist on appeal after convicting him of aiding a terrorist organization.
The ruling was challenged by a prosecutor immediately after the hearing. Altan was detained by police officers at his İstanbul home on Tuesday evening and transported to the jail on Wednesday.
“The lack of credible grounds to re-arrest Ahmet Altan and his renewed imprisonment, reversing the court’s initial decision to release him, further damages the credibility of Turkey’s judiciary, in particular due to the high level of political interference. This interference needs to halt,” said a statement issued on Wednesday by Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
“Media freedom and freedom of expression are key to a functioning democracy. The EU has at all levels and in all fora expressed its opposition on the persistent erosion of press freedom in Turkey and, in particular, at the high number of journalists imprisoned there. Journalists need to do their job – they do not belong in jail,” the statement added, referring to more than 150 journalists in Turkey’s jails.
Dozens of critical journalists were arrested in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016 under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
In the meantime, Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, also reacted to the re-arrest of Altan on Twitter.
“Like many others, I am appalled by the senseless cruelty that Turkish courts displayed once more by detaining #AhmetAltan again. He should immediately be released,” she tweeted on Wednesday.
Journalists Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak were sentenced last week to 10 years, six months and eight years, nine months in prison, respectively, for “aiding a terrorist group without membership in it” but were released by the court pending appeal. A third journalist, Professor Mehmet Altan, who was also tried in the same proceedings, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence against him.
One of Turkey’s most famous writers and journalists, Altan was first arrested after a 2016 failed coup on charges of supporting the coup attempt.