Figen Çalıkuşu, one of the lawyers of renowned journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, has filed an emergency motion with the Court of Cassation for Altan’s release amid coronavirus threat in prisons.
Çalıkuşu said in her appeal that Altan is 70 years old and this puts his life at risk as the virus is known to have spread to Turkish jails, online news portal Bianet reported on April 14.
The lawyer’s latest application for Altan’s release came after Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül announced on April 13 that three inmates in Turkey’s open prisons have died from COVID-19, while 17 others were diagnosed with the virus.
“I am repeating my demand for [Altan’s] release, as I have indicated many times in my previous appeals. But this time, I am demanding that an emergency release decision be given in the face of coronavirus epidemic which is a serious threat against life,” Çalıkuşu’s appeal letter said.
In September 2016, Altan, the founder of the now-banned Turkish newspaper Taraf, was arrested for the first time. The prosecutors accused him of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the government refers to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
In November 2019, he was released, but only a week later, another court reversed that decision. And the renowed author is now back in prison.
“Ahmet Altan is in prison since Sept. 10, 2016, for 1,290 days. If a militant law were not applied to my client and such an unlawfulness were not overlooked, he would not be in prison and his life would not be under such a serious threat,” Çalıkuşu said in her appeal motion.
The lawyer’s application came as Turkey’s parliament on April 14 passed a law that will allow the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, but which critics slam for excluding those jailed on terrorism charges, mainly journalists and politicians.
The opposition and human rights groups point out that “terror” has taken on a broad meaning in Turkey, essentially used as a way to criminalize any opponent of the government.