Turkey: Political prisoner released after serving for 30 years over spurious charges

Turkey: Political prisoner released after serving for 30 years over spurious charges
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Mehmet Aytunc Altay, now 67, was denied release even after the ECHR ruled that his right to a fair trial was violated.

A man who was sentenced by a Turkish state security court to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1993 on a spurious charge of "attempting to destroy the constitutional order" was released today, after serving in prison for 30 years.

Mehmet Aytunc Altay was denied retrial even after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided that his right to fair trial was violated. A retrial in the case took place only after Turkey's high appeals court overturned the local court's decision, but the initial court decision was confirmed in the retrial.

Altay had in the beginning been taken into custody on an allegation of "leading an illegal group," namely the Communist Party of Turkey / Union, but he was later indicted of involvement in an attempt to destroy the constitutional order.

State security courts no longer exist in Turkey. The courts were established after the military coup in 1980 and were abolished in June 2004 in the context of judicial reforms.

Altay was greeted today by family and friends outside Kiriklar prison in the western city of Izmir and accompanied home.

In a brief message after his release, he extended his solidarity to "all those who remain incarcerated and those who keep on struggling outside."