Turkey’s Constitutional Court has said that lower courts need to abide by its rulings, instead of questioning them, T24 news portal reported on Feb. 4.
“The duty of lower courts is not to evaluate the Constitutional Court’s duties and authorities, but is only to clear away violations and their results determined by the top court,” it said in a ruling on Jan. 9.
The Constitutional Court’s statement concerns the failure of the Turkish judiciary to uphold its rulings regarding the case of journalist Mehmet Altan, who was freed in June 2018 after nearly two years in jail.
Altan was an economics professor and columnist for top newspapers at the time of his detention in September 2016. He was accused of “aiding” the network of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara says organized the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
The Constitutional Court twice ruled Altan’s imprisonment to be in violation of his “right to personal liberty and security” as well as “his right to freedom of expression.” And although the top court’s decisions are legally binding for lower courts, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court and the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court refused to release Altan, condemning him to another six months of incarceration.
The lower courts declared the top court’s judgement was a “usurpation of authority” and therefore could not be accepted. This language was similar to the reaction of the then-government spokesperson, Bekir Bozdağ, who had tweeted this objection to the decision, claiming that the Constitutional Court had “exceeded” its authority.
The top court in its ruling on Jan. 9 ordered that Altan should be paid 30,000 Turkish Liras ($5,025) in compensation due to his right having being violated by the lower courts.
“A court’s questioning the authorities of the Constitutional Court, which is equipped with the authority to give ultimate and binding decisions, is against the basic principles of the state of law and legal security,” it said.
The Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appeals court, on June 27, 2018 ruled for Altan’s release from prison pending trial. The court based its decision on the previous “binding” ruling of the Constitutional Court. Altan was then subject to judicial control in the form of reporting to the local police station to give his signature once a week.
In a ruling handed down on Nov. 5, 2019, the Court of Cassation, the high appeals court, acquitted Altan of alleged links to the Gülen network.