Swedish journalists call for immediate release of jailed Turkish writer


Seventeen Swedish Journalists, including the presidents of major press institutions urged Turkey for the immediate release of jailed Turkish writer Ahmet Altan.

“You can jail opponents for absurd, Kafka-like reasons, but you can never imprison the freedom of expression. Release Altan immediately,” the journalists said in a joint letter addressing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported on Monday.

The 71-year-old journalist/writer was detained in a crackdown against intellectuals and writers in September 2016, following a failed military coup two months earlier, which Turkey blames on the Gülen Movement.

In the aftermath of the coup, the seventeen journalists said that Erdoğan gathered the judiciary, legislative and executive powers in his hands and asserted control of more than 95 percent of the Turkish media.

“Freedom of expression and press has almost disappeared, and Turkey became the world's biggest prison for journalists,” they said.

Altan, who has been kept in a four square meter cell in Silivri prison near Istanbul, is among those who paid the highest price for Erdoğan's arbitrary persecution of opponents, the journalists said.

They stated that there was no evidence to match the charges against Altan.

Altan is one of Turkey's most influential, respected and widely read authors, with books published in 23 countries in 23 countries. His latest book, “I'll never see the world again”, written in prison, will be published in Swedish in April, the journalists said.

Altan was  given a life sentence in February 2018 on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and interfering with the work of the national assembly and government through violence or force.

In November 2019, a court ruled to overturn Altan's conviction on attempting to overthrow the government, the charge he was originally arrested for in 2016, and instead convicted him of the lesser crime of aiding a terrorist organisation. It ruled for Altan's release, citing time he had already spent in prison.

Altan remained free on probation for one week, after which he was detained again when the prosecutor of the case appealed against his release.

Later, Altan took his case to the Constitutional Court, saying he was rearrested despite the non-existence of the necessary conditions for imprisonment. In his application, Altan said that his right to freedom of expression, liberty and security were violated. 

However, in December the Constitutional Court rejected a legal appeal by Altan against his arrest for aiding a terrorist organisation and ruled that the prominent writer’s second arrest did not violate his rights, as it was made for a pre-existing conviction of supporting terrorism.

Ahmet Altan denies the accusations.

Altan was a former head of Taraf newspaper.