Jailed Turkish writer Ahmet Altan still waiting to get COVID-19 vaccine, lawyer announces

70-year-old Ahmet Altan, who has been jailed since September 2016 over coup-related charges, has not yet received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, although vaccination of the over 65-age group has already started last week, his lawyer said. Lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu also said that authorities have not yet answered Altan's application to get a shot.

Duvar English

Jailed Turkish writer Ahmet Altan has still not been vaccinated with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine although he is 70 years old, his lawyer announced on Feb. 18.

Altan's application for vaccination has not been yet answered, lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu said on her Twitter account.

“I have today found out that my 70-year-old client Ahmet Altan has not still received coronavirus vaccine and his petition has not been answered. I remind the authorities of their duties on behalf of the people aged 65 and over in jails and share the gravity with the public,” Çalıkuşu wrote.

Ankara launched the vaccinations on Jan 14, starting with health workers and the elderly. Last week, the Health Ministry started administrating the vaccine on people aged 65 and above.

Altan was arrested in September 2016 over his alleged links to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the group widely believed to have carried out the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.

He was handed an aggravated prison sentence for "attempting to overthrow the government" on Feb. 16, 2018. 

Following his appeal, the Court of Cassation on July 5, 2019 overruled the aggravated prison term that was handed on coup charges and ruled that Altan be sentenced for "intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organization," referring to the Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).

The Istanbul 26th Heavy Penal Court then abided by the Court of Cassation ruling and sentenced Altan to 10 years and six months in prison for "aiding a terrorist organization without being a member of it" on Nov. 4, 2019. The court also ruled for his release on the condition of judicial control. 

His freedom was short-lived. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office appealed the ruling that set him free, which led to his rearrest on Nov. 13, 2019.

Altan took his case to the Constitutional Court on Nov. 21, 2019 after the appeals against his rearrest were dismissed, saying that he was rearrested despite the inexistence of the necessary conditions for imprisonment. 

In his individual application, the prominent novelist also said that his right to freedom of expression, liberty and security were violated. 

The top court, however, dismissed his application on Dec. 2, 2020 on the grounds that he is kept behind bars based on a "conviction" rather than an "accusation." 

According to the Constitutional Court, Altan's claims that the heavy penal courts are not impartial and independent are "baseless."