Seventeen Swedish journalists, including the heads of prominent organizations, have called for the immediate release of jailed Turkish writer Ahmet Altan.
In a joint statement published in Sweeden's major newspapers, the journalists noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had consolidated tremendous power in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
“The 70-year-old Ahmet Altan, who is imprisoned in a four-square-meter cell in Silivri prison, is one of the people who is paying the heavy cost of Erdoğan's putting critics/opponents under arbitrary pressure...Ahmet Altan constantly denies the charges against him, and there is no evidence with regards to 'crimes' he has been accused of,” the journalists said.
They said that Altan is one of the most-read authors in Turkey, and his book “I will never see the world again,” which he wrote in jail, would be published in Swedish in April.
“We demand that Ahmet Altan is released from captivity. Since he has been imprisoned by the instructions of Erdoğan, we want to send an explicit message to the Turkish President: You can put opponents in jail with Kafkaesque reasons but you can never imprison freedom of expression: Release Altan immediately!” their statement ended by saying.
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."