A Turkish court has ruled that journalist Mehmet Altan be released, four months after he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of aiding a failed military coup, a member of his defense team said on Wednesday.
Altan and his brother, Ahmet, were first detained in September 2016 as part of a government crackdown in the aftermath of a coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan. They were then jailed for life in February along with four other journalists on charges of aiding coup plotters.
Mehmet Altan was sentenced even though the constitutional court, Turkey’s highest, had previously ruled for his release, saying that his detention amounted to the violation of his rights. A penal court rejected the request and decided to keep him in jail as his trial continued.
“It was an absurd situation and totally unlawful for him not to be released after the Constitutional Court decision,” a lawyer for Altan, who declined to be named, told Reuters. “Another court, the appeals court, did the right thing and released him now. That's what should have happened in the first place,” the lawyer said.
Altan’s case underscored deep concern about press freedom in Turkey as well as worries over the independence of the judiciary under Erdogan, who was re-elected on Sunday to a newly empowered executive presidency.