Veteran journalist Şahin Alpay, released pending trial on Friday after 20 months in jail, said he left thousands people who have nothing to do with terrorism in prison, saying that “Turkey will not be free if they are not free.”
“I am extremely happy to have reunited with my family. But I cannot say that I have gotten my freedom. The last 20 months [in prison] have been very difficult,” Alpay said as he was greeted by his waiting family after his release from İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison at midnight on Friday.
“There are thousands I am leaving behind who have nothing to do with terrorism or the coup attempt. I believe Turkey will not be free if they are not free,” he added.
It was reported that the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court decided for Alpay’s house arrest, judicial probation and an international travel ban.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Friday ruled for a second time that the rights of Alpay, who was arrested July 30, 2016, were violated.
The decision came upon an application by Alpay’s lawyers after an İstanbul high criminal court had refused to release him despite an earlier Constitutional Court ruling on Jan. 11, 2018 that his right to freedom and security as well as to freedom of expression and freedom of the press had been violated.
The Constitutional Court ruled at the time that Alpay, along with fellow jailed journalist Mehmet Altan, should be released due to a violation of their rights; however, local courts refused to free them, arguing that the top court’s ruling was not binding.
Both Altan and Alpay were jailed in the aftermath of a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. They are accused of links to the Gülen movement and “attempting to overthrow the government.” They have denied the charges.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 248 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 193 were under arrest pending trial while only 55 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 139 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.