Turkish writer & journalist Ahmet Altan released from prison – Lawyer

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ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan was released from prison on Wednesday, his lawyer said, after the top appeals court overturned a verdict against him following a ruling by a European court that his rights had been violated.

The 71-year-old Altan has been in prison in western Istanbul since September 2016, on charges related to an attempted coup in July 2016.

He was detained over allegations that he disseminated subliminal messages related to the coup attempt during a TV programme, as well as articles he had written criticising the government.

He denied the charges, which he and his lawyer said were politically motivated.

Altan’s case was one of those considered to be symbolic of the crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan following the attempted coup. Ankara says the measures were necessary given the security threats facing Turkey.

He was sentenced to life in jail in 2018 without parole for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Cassation, the top appeals court.

Altan was then re-tried and sentenced to more than 10 years for aiding a terrorist organisation. He was briefly released due to time served but re-arrested after the prosecutor objected.

Altan was released again on Wednesday due to time served after the Court of Cassation overturned the second ruling, his lawyer Figen Calikusu said.

“This has been a judicial persecution that went on for longer than four years and seven months. Ahmet Altan was held with a completely empty file,” she said.

“He was considered the perpetrator of the coup attempt for articles he wrote,” Calikusu added.

His case will now return to the lower court, which could decide to resist the ruling by the Court of Cassation but Calikusu said she expected Altan to be acquitted.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Altan’s right to liberty and security, as well as his freedom of expression had been violated since he was accused without reasonable suspicion.

Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, welcomed the ruling by the Court of Cassation, adding that all charges should be dropped.

Turkey accused Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the coup. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, denies involvement.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Ali Kucukgocmen;Editing by Alison Williams

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