Turkey arrests journalist Ahmet Altan a week after his release

Rights group Amnesty International decries 'scandalous' move as prominent writer rearrested in Istanbul.

    Police say Ahmet Altan was detained at his home in the Istanbul district of Kadikoy on the city's Asian side [File: AFP]
    Police say Ahmet Altan was detained at his home in the Istanbul district of Kadikoy on the city's Asian side [File: AFP]

    Turkish police have arrested journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, a week after his release from prison in his retrial on charges linked to a failed 2016 coup.

    Istanbul police and human rights groups said on Tuesday that officers detained Altan at his home.

    The move came after prosecutors objected to his release and a court ordered his rearrest.

    Altan and another veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak were freed on November 4 despite having been convicted of "helping a terrorist group".

    A court sentenced Altan to more than 10 years in jail, but ruled that he and Ilicak should be released under supervision after time already served, approximately three years each. They were also forbidden from leaving the country.

    "I am out of the Turkish prison but thousands of innocent people are still there," Altan wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian after his release, criticising the Turkish judicial system.

    "I lacked the power to save them and nobody listened to what they said," he added.

    Crackdown

    Altan has been accused of having links to the outlawed movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of ordering the attempted coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016. Gulen denies the allegations.

    For their part, Altan and Ilicak have denied any involvement in the failed coup.

    Turkey jailed tens of thousands of people pending trial after the coup attempt, while civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.

    Rights groups and Turkey's Western allies have criticised the scope of the crackdown, saying Ankara has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

    The government has said the security measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threat faced by Turkey and has pledged to eradicate Gulen's network in state institutions and civil life.

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    Last year, Altan and Ilicak were sentenced to life in prison, but a top appeals court quashed the verdict in July and ordered a retrial on a different charge.

    Amnesty International's Europe director, Marie Struthers, said Altan's arrest on Tuesday was "scandalous".

    "It is impossible to see this decision as anything other than further punishment for his determination not to be silenced and it compounds an already shocking catalogue of injustice he has been subjected to," Struthers said.

    Turkey ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies