Ahmet Altan - “Insulting the President” and “Propaganda of Terrorist Organization” Trial

Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan published an article with the headline “Ezip Geçmek” [Walking Over] on “Haberdar” internet news website on 14 June 2016.

Following the publication of the article, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched an investigation concerning Altan. Ahmet Altan was charged with “defamation of the President” and “terrorist organisation propaganda”.

The indictment concerning Altan was completed on 11 April 2017.

According to the indictment, President Tayyip Erdoğan was compared to Darth Vader, a character in the film Star Wars. The indictment included the following statements from the article: “The man who rules Turkey runs the risk of a civil war breaking out in the country. He says, ‘we will walk over them’. Just like Darth Vader, who was not aware that he gave the order to ‘destroy’ his own planet, Erdoğan is not aware that he is saying ‘let it come’ to a civil war, which will destroy his country and what is more, his own life.” According to the indictment, the following statements were written in the article:

“AKP supporters, who voted for a man who says, ‘Let a civil war break out,’ must think that they will ‘walk over them’. They think a civil war will be like killing children who dig trenches in Kurdish areas with tanks and cannon.

Fleeing will be of no use. They will be prosecuted as ‘war criminals’. We heard Darth Vader’s order to ‘destroy the planet’. Be aware that the planet ‘to be destroyed’ is your country. Even if Darth Vader doesn’t, you should know this. Behave accordingly.”

The indictment asserted that the character Darth Vader, who was compared to the President in Altan’s article, was a half-mechanical, half-human character in the Star Wars franchise who represents the dark side of the force, and is depicted as a cruel person. The indictment referred to the “Darth Wader” entry on online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. It was asserted that Altan “used this comparison to support his claim that the President ‘wished for a civil war to break out’“.

It was asserted that Altan “used the statement, ‘children who dig trenches in Kurdish areas’ for the members of PKK/KCK terrorist organisation, which attempted to instigate insurrection by digging trenches in one part of the country, and attempted to depict the terrorists and their actions as being innocent”.

The indictment asserted that Altan “interpreted the practice of the method adopted by the terrorists against the President, whom he accused of inciting civil war, as ‘a deserved consequence’”.

The indictment charged Altan with “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and five years. It was asserted that the crime was committed “by means of the media”. The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and five years.

The indictment also charged Altan with “defamation of the President” in accordance with Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and four years. It was also asserted that the crime was committed “publicly”. The prosecution thus demanded that the sentence be increased by one-sixth in accordance with Article 299/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between fourteen months and four years and eight months on the charge of “public defamation of the President”.

The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between two years and two months and nine years and eight months.

The trial of Altan commenced with the first hearing at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 5 December 2017.

Altan attended the first hearing from Istanbul Silivri Prison, where he was being held in remand, through the Audio-Visual Information System.

In his defensive statement, Altan stated the following regarding the accusations: “Imagine an article, which defames the President, engages in PKK propaganda, supports a religious congregation accused of attempting to seize the state, and supports a military coup, all at once.” By saying so, Altan emphasised that the article that was cited as evidence for the accusations was also cited as evidence in the other trial concerning him. He said, “A judiciary can be anything, but it can’t be laughable. A laughable judiciary is doomed to wither away”.

The third and final hearing of the trial took place on 28 February 2018.

The court ruled that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of two years on the charge of “terrorist organisation propaganda”. However, the court ruled that the crime “was committed by means of the media”. The sentence was increased by half. Altan was thus sentenced to imprisonment of three years on the charge of “terrorist organisation propaganda by means of the media”.

The court also ruled that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of two years and six months on the charge of “defamation of the President”. The court ruled that the crime “was committed publicly”. The sentence was increased by one sixth. Altan was thus sentenced to imprisonment of two years and 11 months on the charge of “public defamation of the President”.

Altan was sentenced to imprisonment of a total of five years and 11 months. The sentence was not reduced.

The Appeals Process

Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan’s attorneys launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentence at the court of appeals.

The court of appeals approved the local court’s ruling concerning Altan on January 2020. The court of appeals found the ruling of the local court lawful. The court of appeals emphasised that the local court’s ruling was appropriate in terms of evidence and the act had been categorised correctly.

Documents

Defense

Indictment

Journalists
Ahmet Altan

Contact: pressinarrest@gmail.com

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