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Turkey arrests top journalist day after release

AFP , Friday 23 Sep 2016
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A Turkish court on Friday put a prominent journalist under arrest just a day after he was released over accusations related to the failed July coup, in a case that has sparked global concern.

Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan was detained late on Thursday, after he had been freed earlier in the day after almost two weeks behind bars.

The new arrest warrant was issued following an appeal by prosecutors.

The veteran journalist was taken to court early Friday and remanded in custody charged with "attempting to remove the government or attempting to obstruct its work", the Anadolu news agency said.

He was also charged with "being a member of a terrorist organisation", referring to the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

An Istanbul court also placed his academic brother Professor Mehmet Altan under arrest on the same charges.

Ankara accuses the preacher of ordering the July 15 attempted coup and the movement of being a "terrorist organisation", claims which Gulen strongly denies.

Ahmet Altan is a novelist who has also written for some of Turkey's best dailies including Hurriyet and Milliyet as well as founding the opposition daily Taraf.

Mehmet Altan has written books on Turkish politics.

The pair are accused of making comments with a "subliminal" message that the putsch was imminent during a talk show on the Can Erzincan TV channel on July 14, the eve of the coup.

The broadcaster, seen by the authorities as strongly pro-Gulen, has since been shut down.

The Altan brothers case has been a touchpoint for activists and fellow writers across the world worried about what they claim is the erosion of freedom of expression in Turkey.

Turkey's bestselling and Nobel-winning author Orhan Pamuk lashed out at the initial arrest of the journalist, warning that Turkey was heading towards becoming "a regime of terror".

He joined nearly 300 writers, including J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie and Elif Safak, earlier this month in penning a piece calling for their release and for the Turkish government to respect freedom of speech.

"Like his brother and others now in jail, his (Mehmet Altan's) crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the current government," they wrote.

Dozens of journalists have been detained since the attempted coup while over 100 media organs including newspapers have been shut down.

The Turkish government insists those detained were not engaged in normal journalistic activity.

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