Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan’s article with the headline “Coup Preparations or Shutting Down Kemalism” was published in the now-closed Taraf newspaper on 16 March 2008.
In his article, Altan criticised the lawsuit, which was filed for shutting down the ruling Justice and Development Party in March 2008.
The indictment concerning the closure of the Justice and Development Party and a five-year political ban on 71 politicians including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül was presented to the Constitutional Court on 14 March 2008. The Constitutional Court rejected the demand for shutting down the party and ruled that a deduction be made from the subsidies the party received from the Treasury.
Following the publication of the article, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Kadıköy, Istanbul launched an investigation on Altan.
It was asserted that Altan “defamed then-Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation” in his article. Then Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation had prepared the indictment for the closure of the Justice and Development Party.
The indictment concerning Altan was completed on 14 May 2008. Then Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, who demanded the party’s closure with an indictment presented to the Constitutional Court, was listed as the “victim” in the indictment. The indictment included Altan’s following statements from the article:
“I do not think anybody believes in ‘the existence of a genuine judicial system in Turkey’ after the oddity presented by the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, as an indictment.
I think the Chief Public Prosecutor’s indictment announces the end of the Kemalist state.
I think everyone has understood by now that it will not be possible to live alongside these Kemalist coup plotters within the state, that a legal solution should definitely be found.
The only thing to do now is to take immediate measures to prevent the second step they have been contemplating… The coup plotter is a person among the coup-plotting powers that cannot sit still, a person who attempts to create problems within these powers and plans to stage a coup…”
It was asserted that Altan “defamed then Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation due to carrying out his duties”.
The indictment charged Altan with “defamation of a public officer due to his duties” in accordance with Article 125/1 and 125/3 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and two years. It was asserted that the “defamation was carried out publicly”. The prosecution demanded that the sentence be increased by one sixth in accordance with Article 125/4 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The prosecution demanded that Altan be sentenced to imprisonment of between fourteen months and two years and four months on the charge of “public defamation of a public official”.
The trial concerning Altan commenced at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Kadıköy in 2008.
In his defensive statement, Altan said the following: “If a prosecutor prepares an indictment consisting of news items from internet websites and newspaper clippings, then I have the right to criticise him. It is a duty that is not only ours, but also of jurists’”.
This trial concerning Altan was postponed at the time.
The postponement of the trial was grounded on the provisional Article 1 and 2 of the “Amendment to Certain Laws to Enable Judicial Functions and the Law Concerning Postponement of Trials and Sentences Related to Crimes Committed by Means of the Media” which was approved by the parliament on 2 July 2012 and took effect on 5 July 2012.
The legal regulation introduced postponement of the trial regardless of its stage “in crimes which were committed by expressing ideas or opinions and which are punishable by judiciary fines or imprisonment sentences of up to five years”.
According to the law, “the journalists, whose trials were postponed, should not commit another crime by means of the media within three years”.
However, within the three-year period granted by the law, Altan’s sentence in the “defamation of the President” case was finalised by the 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul in March 2018.
The trial that had been postponed in 2008 therefore recommenced.
The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Kadıköy, had been shut down in the meanwhile as part of a restructuring of the judicial organisation. For that reason, the trial was carried out by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul Anadolu.
The legal regulation, publicly known as the “Judicial Reform Package”, which took effect on 24 October 2019, made it possible to appeal court rulings on the charge of “defamation of the President” to the Court of Cassation. Benefiting from the law, Altan appealed against the imprisonment sentence, which was approved by the court of appeals in March 2008, at the Court of Cassation.
The third hearing of the recommenced trial took place on 27 October 2020. Altan was in remand as part of another trial him; however, he did not attend the hearing. The panel of judges had changed at this hearing.
The court ruled to determine the results of the appeals examination carried out by the Court of Cassation against the ruling by the 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which led to the trial concerning Altan to recommence.
The court ruled that the trial would proceed with the fourth hearing on 18 February 2021.
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