Turkey detains a top journalist again, signalling a continuing crackdown

  • >> Carlotta Gall, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-11-13 11:53:32 BdST

The journalist Ahmet Altan being taken into custody by the police on Tuesday. The New York Times

A Turkish judge ordered a prominent journalist detained again Tuesday — only a week after he was released — signalling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s intention to continue his government’s crackdown on dissent.

The journalist, Ahmet Altan, was found guilty of terrorism charges last week and sentenced to more than 10 years in jail, but he was released for time served while his case was under appeal.

Altan, 69, a former newspaper editor who wrote a novel during nearly three years of incarceration, was accused, along with the television journalist Nazli Ilicak, of sending a subliminal message during a televised interview to signal the start of the 2016 coup attempt. Altan’s brother, Mehmet, was acquitted in the case.

They were among the most prominent journalists to be detained and charged with terrorism in the widespread government crackdown that followed the failed coup: Tens of thousands of people were arrested, and 150,000 public servants were purged from their jobs. The journalists have been supported by an international campaign that has highlighted the lack of press freedom and freedom of speech in Turkey.

Altan was taken by the police from his home in Istanbul on Tuesday night. His lawyer, Figen Calikusu, said that neither she nor her client had been informed of the latest court decision to detain him again.

“We again learned about the decision from the media,” Calikusu wrote on Twitter. “The law is buried under cement.”

A newly appointed judge in Istanbul sided with prosecutors Tuesday and ordered Altan’s rearrest, a day after another court had rejected the prosecutors’ arguments.

Erdogan has been accused of using the coup as an excuse to imprison political and social opponents. Turkey has been named by human rights organisations as responsible for imprisoning the largest number of journalists of any country alongside China.


© 2019 New York Times News Service