Skip to main content

'A despicable act': Turkey rearrests prominent writer Ahmet Altan

Altan's detention has drawn widespread criticism from human rights and press freedom groups
Ahmet Altan waves from a car after he was rearrested at his Istanbul home on 12 November (AFP)

Turkish police have rearrested prominent writer Ahmet Altan, just over a week after he was released from detention.

Altan was arrested at his home in Istanbul on Tuesday, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

He had been released on 4 November after more than three years in detention on charges of "aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation without being a member" in relation to a failed July 2016 coup.

Press freedom organisation PEN International criticised Altan's rearrest on Tuesday, calling it "a despicable act".

"Starting in July 2017 Ahmet Altan was put through proceedings marred by violations of his right to a fair trial. Then he was wrongfully detained for three gruelling years. Now he is being sent back to jail a mere eight days after being released," said the group's president, Jennifer Clement.

"The facts together paint a dire picture of the Turkish authorities' unstoppable determination to persecute him."

Altan was released this month along with another writer, Nazli Illicak, who faced the same charges.

While they were both initially sentenced to life in prison, a court overturned that decision last year.

Altan was then sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, while Illicak was handed a nearly nine-year term.

Leading Turkish writers released from jail despite new convictions
Read More »

They were released under "judicial supervision", which subjected them to international travel bans.

A Turkish court revoked Altan's release order on Tuesday, which prompted his rearrest.

The Turkish government blames US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers for the attempted putsch, an allegation that Gulen has denied.

Thousands of people have been arrested since the 2016 coup attempt, including members of the country's police and military services, teachers, journalists and others.

Human rights groups have criticised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government for what they describe as a widespread crackdown on civil society.

"A nationwide crackdown has resulted in mass arrests and dismissals, the hollowing out of the legal system and the silencing of human rights defenders through threats, harassment and imprisonment," Amnesty International said in a report last year.

The group on Tuesday slammed Altan's rearrest as "shocking".

"It is impossible to see this decision as anything other than further punishment for his determination not be silenced and it compounds an already shocking catalogue of injustice he has been subjected to," Amnesty's Europe director, Marie Struthers, said in a statement.