Mehmet Altan, Can Erzincan TV, Özgür Düsünce
Medium:Internet, Print, Television
Imprisoned:September 10, 2016

Mehmet Altan, a columnist, professor of economics, and public figure, was detained by police on September 10, 2016, alongside his brother Ahmet Altan, a well-known novelist and journalist.

Istanbul's 10th Court of Penal Peace on September 22 arraigned Altan on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and attempting to overthrow the government. The charges stem from the allegation that Altan is a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" within Turkey - the Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization, or FETÖ, as the government calls it - that it says was behind a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.

According to the court's order to jail Altan pending trial, a copy of which was published by the news website T24, prosecutors alleged FETÖ tried to shape public opinion to support the coup in advance, and that the organization did so through news media it controlled. The state alleged that on July 14, the day before the attempted coup, Altan had "mentioned that there is an atmosphere suitable for a coup" on a TV show he had co-hosted on Can Erzincan TV together with another journalist, Nazli Ilicak, who is under arrest on similar accusations. The government used emergency powers it claimed after the coup to close Can Erzincan TV by decree on July 27.

Prosecutors alleged Altan had advance knowledge of the coup attempt, citing his words on the TV program as: "Probably inside the Turkish state there is a structure watching, documenting all these developments more than the outside world. It is not certain when [this structure] will show its face."

The court rejected the defense's argument at the arraignment that Altan's statements constituted protected speech, since it did not consider them to have been made "for the public good."

"Explaining your thoughts and broadcasting them continuously for years as propaganda with the aim of laying the groundwork for a military coup...cannot be considered as freedom of expression and freedom of press," the state asserted.

Altan denied all charges.

In court, interrogators-court documents published by T24 list only Altan's answers, not the questions or who was asking them-asked Altan who controlled the newspaper Özgür Düsünce, where he worked, whether he had met Gülen, and whether he had kissed his hand. Altan responded that he had met Gülen once for journalistic purposes, and denied having kissed the preacher's hand.

As of late 2016, Altan had not been indicted and no trial date had been set.

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