A Turkish court has arrested renowned journalist Ahmet Altan a week after his release, a move that was harshly criticized by international press and rights groups.
Altan was released on Nov. 4 in a case related to a failed 2016 coup, which was followed by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office appealing the ruling.
On Nov. 12 a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest given the gravity of the crimes and the risk of him fleeing.
He was detained by anti-terror police later on the same day, before being arrested on Nov. 13.
Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who were jailed on Sept. 23, 2016 and July 30, 2016, respectively, were released from prison late on Nov. 4 following a retrial.
The court acquitted Altan’s brother Mehmet Altan, who was being tried without arrest, due to lack of evidence.
The court had previously sentenced the two journalists to life imprisonment for aiding the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have been behind the botched coup of July 2016.
They were also accused of attempting to abolish the constitutional order.
Turkey’s Court of Cassation overruled the life sentences against the three journalists in July, sending the file back for re-trial.
Altan and Ilıcak had denied the charges against them.
“If you want to keep me in jail you can hold me as long as you like, prison does not scare me,” Altan said in his defense before last week’s verdict.
“I would rather complete my life in prison than be scared of such a government.”
In the verdict on Nov. 4, the court sentenced Ahmet Altan to 10 years and six months in jail and Ilıcak to eight years and nine months over “aiding the organization,” but then ruled that they could be released as they had already served more than three years behind bars.
The two journalists were released under judicial control.
Altan’s arrest a week after he was released was slammed by his lawyer.
“Law has been buried under concrete,” Altan’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu wrote on Twitter, describing Altan’s renewed detention as unlawful.
“I am appalled by this decision,” said Harlem Desir, media freedom representative of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
“This is a terrible setback and can only deepen the media freedom crisis in the country. I call for the decision to be reversed,” he said.
The PEN International writers’ association described his arrest as “a dark day for justice in Turkey.”
Another statement was released by Amnesty International, which branded the rearrest as “judicial farce.”
“Ahmet Altan has committed no crime. This judicial farce, emblematic of a period where politically motivated show trials have become the norm, must be brought to an end. Altan must be allowed to remain at home with his family and to have his absurd conviction quashed,” Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Marie Struthers said.
Altan’s prison memoir “I Will Never See the World Again” has been nominated for the Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction.