AEJ President Saia Tsaousidou today welcomed the release from prison of Ahmet Altan, 71, the Turkish writer and journalist imprisoned on charges of supporting the failed Turkish coup attempt of July 2016.

But she joined Altan’s leading lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz in expressing outrage that it had taken the European Court of Human Rights more than four years to give a judgement on the case, which appeared to have no sensible basis at all. One of the charges was “sending subliminal messages” to the would-be putschists.

Cengiz, a human rights lawyer who is Ahmet’s lead lawyer, said he first brought the case to Strasbourg in January 2017. He had “mixed feelings” , he said. He was glad that Ahmet had been freed, “but on the other hand,” he said of the long delay, “I am really angry with the court”.

Altan, one of Turkey’s best-known political prisoners, had a 40-year track record as a reporter and then editor, one who dared to write about the rights of the Kurds, and the 1915 Aremnian genocide.

After he and his brother were imprisoned – for life – the writer Joanne Harris said “Writers exist to question, to challenge, sometimes even to ridicule – the status quo. For a government to imprison a writer for doing this is to attack, not only freedom of speech, but freedom of the imagination. It is a backward, oppressive and ultimately futile gesture that can only lead to greater and more damaging social unrest.”

Turkey’ Court of Cassation ordered his release yesterday,reversing the ruling that he “evoked” the attempted coup. The day before the European Court of Human Rights ordered he be released after it found he was held on “legally dubious grounds” in the first place.

ECHR judgement:{%22fulltext%22:[%22Ahmet%20Altan%22]}