Turkey court orders 'conditional' release of detained journalist Sahin Alpay

Turkey court orders 'conditional' release of detained journalist Sahin Alpay
The court ruled that Sahin Alpay must remain in his house and is forbidden from leaving Turkey.
2 min read
17 March, 2018
After the failed coup, dozens of journalists have been arrested [Getty]

An Istanbul court has ordered the conditional release of a prominent Turkish journalist jailed in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup following an earlier decision by the country's top constitutional body.

The court ruled that Sahin Alpay must remain in his house and is forbidden from leaving Turkey, state news agency Anadolu reported.

The Constitutional Court had in January ruled that Alpay and fellow jailed journalist Mehmet Altan should be released on the grounds their rights had been violated.

But the lower criminal courts hearing their cases defied the decision and they were kept in jail.

After the January court ruling Alpay applied to the Constitutional Court for a second time which again ruled by a majority vote earlier on Friday that his rights had been violated while in detention.

Mehmet Altan was on February 16 handed a life sentence on charges of links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, along with his brother Ahmet, also a writer, and veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak.

In a separate case, Alpay remains on trial, also charged with links to the failed coup and facing life in jail if convicted. He was arrested shortly after the failed coup and remanded in pre-trial detention in late July 2016.

A similar application to the Constitutional Court by Mehmet Altan would be examined at a later date, Anadolu reported. The top body said that Alpay should be paid 20,000 lira ($5,100) in compensation.

The latest ruling comes as the European Court of Human Rights is scheduled on March 20 to rule on the cases of Alpay and Mehmet Altan who both appealed to the Strasbourg court.

Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe rights watchdog, of which the court is a part, and is thus obliged to implement its judgements. Were Turkey to defy a ruling, it could cause a serious crisis in its relations with the body.

The failure of the lower courts to release Alpay and Altan earlier this year caused uproar among Turkish activists. The Council of Europe's chief Thorbjorn Jagland also expressed concern, saying such decisions were "binding" otherwise "the rule of law will be undermined".

Their cases have amplified concerns in Turkey about the rule of law under the state of emergency declared after the failed coup that has seen dozens of journalists arrested.

Turkey says the crackdown is needed to eradicate the influence of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who it blames for the failed putsch but critics say it has included anyone who dares criticise President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.