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Turkey arrests prominent journalist hours after his release

Less than two weeks ago, authorities detained Ahmet Altan and his brother for alleged connections to Fethullah Gulen
Professor Mehmet Altan (L) and journalist Ahmet Altan (R) were arrested by Turkish authorities two weeks ago (AA)

Turkish authorities detained a prominent journalist late on Thursday, less than 24 hours after he was released from detention in connection with the investigation into the attempted putsch in July, local media reported.

Istanbul anti-terrorism police initially detained Ahmet Altan and his brother, professor Mehmet Altan, on 10 September, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, naming them as suspects in their investigation into the failed 15 July coup.

Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan was freed before dawn on Thursday, while his brother remained under arrest. Authorities then detained Ahmet once again after a warrant was issued late on Thursday, the Dogan news agency reported, without saying what the charges were.

The court had charged Mehmet Altan with "attempting to remove the government or attempting to obstruct its work," the official news agency Anadolu reported at the time. He was also charged with "being a member of a terrorist organisation," referring to the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ahmet Altan, a prominent figure in Turkey, was for years a columnist with top dailies, including Hurriyet and Milliyet, before founding the opposition daily Taraf in 2007.

He resigned as Taraf editor-in-chief in 2012, and has written several novels. His brother Mehmet is the author of several books on Turkish politics.

Gulen's group is accused of coordinating the failed coup. Gulen denies the accusations and has ridiculed Ankara's designation of his group as a terrorist organisation.

Ahmet Altan's brief period of freedom came after almost 12 hours in court in a marathon overnight hearing.

The pair was initially detained after making comments on a talk show on the Can Erzincan TV channel on 14 July, the eve of the coup, which according to state media contained "subliminal" messages that the putsch was imminent.

The broadcaster, seen by the authorities as pro-Gulen, has since been shut down.

The Altan brothers' detention was swiftly condemned by rights groups and fellow writers as alarm has grown over what activists claim is Turkey's repeated attacks on freedom of speech.

Nobel-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk lashed out at the authorities after the original detention of Ahmet Altan, criticising the crackdown as driven by "the most ferocious hatred".

Pamuk was among almost 300 famous writers and others, including Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee, who signed an open letter urging the authorities to release the journalist and to respect freedom of expression.

Dozens of journalists have been detained, while more than 100 media outlets have been closed down since the putsch attempt.

The Turkish government insists those detained were not engaged in normal journalistic activities.