The European Union on Wednesday sharply criticised Turkey for the re-arrest of prominent journalist and author, Ahmet Altan, eight days after he was released from prison where he was held on terrorism related charges.
“The lack of credible grounds to re-arrest Altan and his renewed imprisonment, reversing the court’s initial decision to release him, further damages the credibility of Turkey’s judiciary, in particular due to the high level of political interference,’’ an EU spokesperson said in a statement.
“This interference needs to halt,’’ the statement added.
Altan and Nazli Ilicak, both well-known journalists, had initially been sentenced to life in prison for aiding a terrorist organisation.
On Nov. 4, they were freed following a retrial, having served more than three years behind bars.
As a condition for their release, they both remained on parole and had to report regularly to police.
Altan’s lawyer Figen Calikusu said among the reasons cited for his re -arrest in the court order were that he was a flight risk and didn’t show remorse, as well as the gravity of his crimes.
After a brief court appearance on Wednesday, Altan was sent to Istanbul’s Siliviri prison.
EU relations with Turkey a membership candidate have plummeted following a failed 2016 Turkish coup attempt and ensuing government crackdown, which has led to an erosion of citizens’ rights, media freedoms and judicial independence.
“Media freedom and freedom of expression are key to a functioning democracy,’’ the EU spokesperson said.
“Journalists need to do their job, they do not belong in jail,” the statement added.