Ahmet Altan, journalist and writer, free after four years in prison

The 71-year-old intellectual was convicted of involvement in the failed summer 2016 coup against Erdogan. Activists denounced abuses and violations in the trial against him. His first words: News came "suddenly. I want to spend time with my children”.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - “I don't know how it came out. I was sitting [in prison] and, all of a sudden, they told me that the same evening they would release me ". These are the first words of the Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, released yesterday after more than four years spent in prison following his conviction for his (alleged) involvement in an attempt to overthrow the established order.

The reference is to the (failed) coup of mid-July 2016, which -  according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – was orchestrated by (alleged) supporters of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, former ally and current number one enemy of the "sultan" of Ankara.

The Supreme Court verdict comes one day after the official request for freedom for the 71-year-old intellectual made by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR). Commenting on the trial, activists and members of civil society denounced repeated violations of the civil rights of the accused, in the context of a trial motivated by political reasons.

"I have just seen my children - Altan told AFP - and now I want to spend some time with them".

Editor of a newspaper and appreciated writer, he was arrested following the publication of some articles critical of President Erdogan and in support of the rights of the Kurds. Among the charges that led to his arrest, and the subsequent trial, that of having "disseminated subliminal messages to the public".

The judges later found him guilty of wanting to overthrow the government, a sentence that was subsequently overturned by the supreme court. The trial underwent a review that eventually led to a sentence of 10 years and six months for "supporting a terrorist organization" involved in the attempted coup.

In 2017, Altan himself appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, calling all the charges against him "grotesque". Western observers and activists, especially Europeans, have followed the journalist's legal story for a long time, together with those of other high profile figures jailed for crimes of thought and opinion.

Often in the past, European emissaries and diplomats, much more than American colleagues under the presidency of Donald Trump, have raised the issue of human rights in meetings with their counterparts in Ankara. In this sense, the most famous - and controversial - case concerns Osman Kavala jailed without any sentence for almost four years and arrested again after being cleared of all charges in 2019.

After the night of the attempted coup in mid-July 2016, in which 250 people died and Erdo─čan's power wavered for a few hours, the Turkish government launched a full blown witch hunt.

Tens of thousands of alleged participants, at home and abroad – intellectuals, activists, soldiers, judges, teachers, ordinary people – were targeted for links, real or imagined, with Fethullah Gülen, or even priests sentenced to prison for offering a piece of bread in "Christian charity".