Following the aggravated life sentences handed down to six defendants, including Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order”, Gauri van Gulik, Europe Director for Amnesty International, said:
“This is a dark day for press freedom and for justice in Turkey and sets a chilling precedent for scores of other journalists facing trials on similar trumped-up terrorism charges.
“The cruelty of these politically motivated sentences – 30 years in jail with up to 23 hours per day in solitary confinement and no possibility of parole or pardon – are clearly intended to instil fear. Imposing such a sentence would not only flout freedom of expression, it would violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.”
“News of these sentences drained the joy from celebrations for the release of another journalist, Deniz Yücel. He had been in prison for more than a year, without an indictment, much of it in solitary confinement.”
The bitter irony of being found guilty of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order will not be lost on Mehmet Altan whose release was ordered just last month by Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which ruled that that his detention violated the right to freedom of expression. The trial court rejected the ruling, flouting the constitution, echoing the government’s criticism of the Constitutional Court’s judgment.
Prolonged solitary confinement, that is, 22 hours a day or more without meaningful human contact for over 15 days, is a direct contravention of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). It constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and could amount to torture, certainly if applied for months and years.