PEN declares jailed Turkish journalist Altan an ‘honorary member’

PEN Center Germany has declared Ahmet Altan an honorary member, calling on the Turkish authorities to immediately release the journalist. Altan's "continued detention is solely political and therefore neither acceptable nor justified," said the statement signed by Ralf Nestmeyer, the vice president of the PEN Center Germany.

Duvar English

PEN Center Germany, part of PEN International, has declared jailed Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan an honorary member.

PEN Center Germany is following the fate of Altan with great concern, the association said in a statement on Nov. 19.

The re-arrest of Altan is “politically motivated,” “contradicts any rule of law and reveals the despotic character of the Turkish regime,” said the statement signed by the PEN Center Germany’s vice president Ralf Nestmeyer.

“We urge the relevant Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release our honorary member Ahmet Altan from prison. His continued detention is solely political and therefore neither acceptable nor justified. His conviction is contradictory to the right to freedom of expression and therefore to the international PEN Charter,” the statement further said.

Altan has already spent over three years in jail. The 69-year-old was arrested in 2016 with his brother, the economist and journalist Mehmet Altan, on allegations of spreading “subliminal messages announcing a military coup” on television. Alongside journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, the Altan brothers were charged with attempting to overthrow constitutional order, interfering with the work of the national assembly and the government.

All three received life sentences in 2018, though Mehmet was released after four months, pending his appeal.

Altan and Ilıcak were subsequently retried on terrorism charges, and convicted. However, the court ruled on Nov. 4 to immediately release the two writers based on the time they had already served. Mehmet was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

On Nov. 6, the prosecutor appealed against the court decision on the grounds that Altan was a flight risk. The Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 27 granted the prosecutor’s request on Nov. 12. Altan was subsequently re-arrested in Istanbul.

Former HDP co-chair Demirtaş is another 'honorary member'

The jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş is another current honorary member of the PEN Center Germany. Demirtaş, the former co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested in November 2016 and has been held since then on various terrorism charges.