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Democracy & Good Governance

Turkey May Face Sanctions After EU Court Decision Regarding Jailed Kurdish Politician.

European Court Slams Erdogan Administration For Imprisonment of Kurdish Politician

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called on Turkey to release Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-chairman of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), who has been imprisoned for two years and sharply criticized his ongoing imprisonment.

In an unusually blunt statement, the ECtHR portrayed Demirtas’s continuing imprisonment as politically motivated. While the court said Demirtas had been arrested on “reasonable suspicion,” the extensions of his detention lacks plausible justification.

In November 2016, Demirtas, along with other HDP Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag, have been arrested on the charges of having links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

He faces dozens of years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors particularly charge him with instigating the violent anti-government protests in October 2014 when HDP supporters took into streets to protest the Erdogan government’s indifference to Islamic State (ISIS) onslaught on the Syrian border town of Kobani.

More than 40 people had been killed during Kobani protests across Turkey. Demirtas vehemently denies any role for the outbreak of violence. His imprisonment came when the Turkish government unleashed a massive crackdown on opponents in different quarters of the political spectrum, arresting tens of thousands of people, including HDP lawmakers and supporters.

Unlike its verdict and judgment on previous applications from Turkey regarding detention of journalists, the ECtHR invoked the 18th article of European Human Rights Convention in its recent decision, setting the stage for a potential diplomatic showdown.

The 18th article appears as binding for the countries against which the verdict was delivered. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outright dismissed ECtHR call for the release of Demirtas.

“[The extensions of detention] had pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society,” the top human rights court said in its statement.

“The Court therefore held, unanimously, that the respondent state was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the applicant’s pre-trial detention,” the court added, pressing Turkey to act swiftly.

In its articulation of the reasoning, the ECtHR referred to the “tense political climate” in Turkey, an element that “created an environment capable of influencing certain decisions by the national courts.”

If Turkey refuses to comply with the recent verdict, it would have grave ramifications for Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe. Ankara may face sanctions in the case of non-compliance and even lose its membership in the Council of Europe, as the 18th article requires for the failing respondent states.

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Imprisonment of Academics Sparks Public Backlash

In a new round of crackdown, Istanbul police units have detained a number of academics linked with philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in prison for nearly a year, sparking criticism and condemnation from large segments of society, including leading business organization TUSIAD.

The new wave of arrests took place as part of Istanbul police’s efforts to dismantle Kavala-affiliated NGO Anadolu Kultur. Law Professor Turgut Tarhanli and Professor Betul Tanbay are among the detained.

“It is very sad to begin the day with the news of detention of many academics at a time when we were talking the return of scientists to the country. We owe the productivity of the lands in which we live to our culture that has become a shelter of science for centuries. We cannot progress by denying this!” Erol Bilecik, the head of the Turkish Industry and Business People’s Association (TUSIAD) wrote on Twitter, expressing his dismay.

Kavala, a secular and pro-Western activist, was imprisoned last year. Despite calls from the international community, the Turkish authorities did not allow his release.

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Kurdish Politician Says Erdogan Behind Latest Crackdown

Co-Chair of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as someone who pulled the strings behind a massive crackdown that targeted more than a 100 politicians and journalists in the latest wave last week.

In simultaneous raids, the Turkish police raided offices and houses of tens of politicians linked with HDP and a group of journalists in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir and other cities. The clampdown has aroused international and national criticism.

Sezai Temelli accused Erdogan of giving the order for the latest move that inflicted a new blow to the party already bleeding in the face of incessant waves of the crackdown. Former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were imprisoned in late 2016 and are still in jail over terrorism charges. Thousands of party members have been jailed over similar charges.

This week saw another phase. The Turkish government has already taken over the administrations of more than 100 Kurdish-run municipalities. The president has repeatedly shown no signs of backing down and signaled a further escalation of crackdown amid armed clashes between Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces.

A fragile truce between the PKK and the Turkish military collapsed in 2015 and renewed urban fighting gave Erdogan additional tools and excuse to crack down on the Kurdish political party which he portrays as the political wing of the armed militants.

The HDP rejects such blanket definitions and refuses association with PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state since the early 1980s to carve out an autonomous zone for self-governance in southeastern Turkey.

A round of peace negotiations in 2015 came to an abrupt end when Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in Parliament in June 7 elections. When Demirtas cruised HDP to Parliament after an upsetting electoral victory that denied AKP the chance to form another single-party government. HDP’s unexpected triumph appeared to be a turning point after the president altered his policy course regarding the Kurdish conflict and adopted a security-first approach to resolving the decades-old issue.

The military solution, although tried during countless different governments over the past four decades, has ultimately proved to be elusive and untenable. The latest bout of violence reduced cities to rubble in many parts of southeastern Turkey, leading to the displacement of nearly half a million people. Both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations well documented the scale of devastation that swept the entire region, revealing the scope of its social and economic cost in fullest form.

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Groom detained for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan, bride performs ceremony alone

A groom named Rahat Akbaba was detained for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on henna night, a customary celebration before a wedding, in Turkey’s Diyarbakır province, causing the wedding ceremony to be held with just the bride, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

According to the report, Akbaba’s car was stopped on April 5 by counterterrorism units on his way from the hairdresser to the henna night party with his bride, Sara Başak. Akbaba was taken to a courthouse and later to Diyarbakır Prison after he was informed that a sentence of three years, nine months in prison for insulting President Erdoğan had been approved by an appeals court.

But their families held the henna celebration and later the wedding ceremony on April 6 as previously planned. Başak performed all the rituals alone.

“They could not tolerate our happiest day. They made the arrest intentionally on henna night. During our talk at the courthouse, he [Akbaba] wanted us to hold the wedding ceremony. We did so out of spite,” said bride.

Twenty-seven social media messages that Akbaba has posted on social media since 2012 were judged to be insults to President Erdoğan by the court.

Source:
https://turkeypurge.com/gloom-detained-for-insulting-erdogan-bride-performs-ceremony-alone

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Interpol shelves Turkish government’s arrest requests over baseless terrorism charges

The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has put on hold almost 50 requests from the Turkish government to arrest people wanted by Ankara on baseless terrorism charges, the pro-government Sabah daily reported on Friday.

The requests by the Turkish government are political in nature, Interpol has ruled, according to the Erdoğanist daily.

Turkey is seeking the arrest and extradition of alleged “senior terrorist leaders” including Salih Muslim, the former co-leader of a Kurdish political group in Syria, and Adil Öksüz, a senior member of FETÖ, Sabah reported.

The paper also claimed that Interpol previously displayed its stance against the Turkish government by reportedly deleting a list of 72,000 alleged members of the Gülen movement. The list was uploaded by the Turkish police on August 2, 2016, right after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government’s blatant abuse of Interpol to persecute, harass and intimidate critics and opponents is much worse than one can imagine, research by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) revealed on September 20, 2017.

The dubious and false charges filed by Turkey through Interpol to hunt down legitimate critics of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have in some cases succeeded in the extradition of people from abroad, subjecting returnees to torture and ill treatment in notorious Turkish prisons. In other cases, people were stranded in third countries while travelling and were forced to fight the forcible return as they remained in detention facilities.

The Turkish government also revoked the travel documents and passports of many Turks without informing them and filed missing and lost reports with Interpol on their behalf when in fact no such request was made by the passport holders. Erdoğan has also pursued his witch-hunt against foreign companies that traded with almost 1,000 Turkish companies which were unlawfully seized and nationalized by the government on fabricated terrorism charges. Interpol mechanisms were used to gather information on foreign partners on absurd charges of terrorism, which sparked diplomatic crises with other countries.

Source:
https://stockholmcf.org/interpol-shelves-turkish-governments-arrest-requests-over-baseless-terrorism-charges/

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Detention warrants issued for 300 teachers in a month in Turkey’s capital of Ankara

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants in the past month for 300 teachers who worked in schools owned by people close to the Gülen movement, the tr724 news website reported.

The schools were closed and the teachers dismissed by the government as part of a witch-hunt launched after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who runs the operation targeting the Gülen movement, was the prosecutor at Pınarhisar Prison when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was jailed there for four months in 1999.

On Nov. 15, 2017 Kocaman refused to comply with a ruling from the court of cassation which said that being sympathetic to or following publications of the Gülen movement is not sufficient to declare a person a member of the movement, which was designated as a terrorist organization by President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Source:
https://stockholmcf.org/detention-warrants-issued-for-300-teachers-in-a-month-in-turkeys-capital-of-ankara/

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İHD: 1,154 prisoners sick, 402 of them in serious condition, across Turkey

The Prisons Commission of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) announced on Friday that there are 1,154 ill prisoners in jails across Turkey, with 402 of them in serious condition, stating that these inmates need to be immediately granted the right to healthcare access.

The İHD’s Prisons Commission drew attention to rights violations in prisons and demanded thorough investigations into allegations of torture and abuse as well as legal action against those responsible.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Mesopotamia news agency, Necla Şengül, İHD deputy secretary-general, and Nehir Bilece, a member of the İHD’s Prisons Commission, issued a statement on the subject at İHD İzmir branch headquarters. “Prison conditions pose a threat to inmates’ mental and physical integrity,” said Bilece.

Source:
https://stockholmcf.org/ihd-1154-prisoners-sick-402-of-them-in-serious-condition-across-turkey/

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Leftist Activist Visits Grave Of Teacher Tortured To Death By Turkish Police After Coup

Veli Saçılık, a sociologist and leftist activist, has visited the grave of Gökhan Açıkkollu, a teacher who was tortured to death while in police custody in the wake of a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 over alleged membership in the faith-based Gülen movement.

Saçılık, who lost his right arm in a military operation known as “Operation Return to Life” conducted in December 2000 in 20 prisons across Turkey, is a renowned figure in Turkey who has been detained many times by the police for taking part in demonstrations on behalf of individuals who were removed from their posts by the government after the coup attempt.

Teacher Açıkkollu was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and remained in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture and eventually died.

Saçılık visited Açıkkollu’s grave in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on Saturday and delivered a short speech there, which he later posted on his Twitter account.

Last week, Açıkkollu was “reinstated” to his job at a public school in İstanbul one-and-a-half years after his death.

The activist said he was paying a visit to Açıkkollu’s grave to bid him farewell.

“He [Açıkkollu] has been reinstated to his job, but he was massacred under detention. As a person who lost one of his arms in prison, I have experienced a lot of pain in this country, and perhaps when I lost my arm, Gökhan thought a terrorist had lost his arm, but when we lend an ear to each other’s pain and say nobody should be subjected to torture and when we dream of a humane life, everything will be different. At that time, we will not embrace a gravestone but each other. This is the important thing,” Saçılık said as he laid a bouquet of flowers at the teacher’s grave.

Açıkkollu’s family learned of his death when they were called to the İstanbul Institute of Forensic Medicine, where Açıkkollu’s ill treatment continued even in death. They were told the funeral could be held on condition that he be buried in a graveyard set aside by the Greater İstanbul Municipality for alleged “traitors,” despite the fact he had not been tried, nor even interrogated. Imams assigned by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) had refused to say the funeral prayer for Açıkkollu.

His family had to embalm the body themselves and took him to his hometown in Konya province in their own car. Here, too, the imam of the local mosque would not officiate at the funeral because of instructions issued by the Religious Affairs Directorate that “the funeral prayer will not be performed for traitors.” As a result, his last rites were said by his close relatives.

Source:
https://stockholmcf.org/leftist-activist-visits-grave-of-teacher-tortured-to-death-by-turkish-police-after-coup/

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SaveTurkishJournalists: RSF appeals to European Court

“You are our last hope” – “We need you” – “We are counting on you” – “Will this ever stop?”

These are the messages that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is sending to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Turkey’s arbitrarily imprisoned journalists, by means of a communication campaign launched on social networks today.

For Turkish journalists who have been arbitrarily jailed, the European Court offers the last hope or being released. The proceedings against these journalists violate the European Convention on Human Rights, with which Turkey must comply as a member of the Council of Europe.

In 2017, the European Court agreed to consider the 20 applications it had received from journalists imprisoned in Turkey, and to give priority to these cases. However, the applications are limited to the issue of their provisional detention and will have little effect after the Turkish courts have finished trying them and have passed sentences.

So, this is urgent. The European Court needs to act quickly!

Three well-known journalists, Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazli Ilicak, were already sentenced to life imprisonment on 16 February on a charge of “trying to overthrow constitutional order” for criticizing the government during a TV broadcast on the eve of an abortive coup d’état in July 2016.

This month, the trial of the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s journalists is due to resume and a verdict is expected in the trial of 26 journalists accused of working for media that supported the movement led by Fethullah Gülen, the alleged instigator of the 2016 coup attempt. The two cases are emblematic of the arbitrary justice prevailing in Turkey’s courts.

The net is closing fast on Turkey’s imprisoned journalists, so RSF urges the European Court to act before it is too late, before sentences are passed!

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Source:
https://rsf.org/en/news/saveturkishjournalists-rsf-appeals-european-court

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