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Freedom of Speech

Ergun Babahan wrote about risk of torture for police chiefs

Yakub Saygılı and his coworkers, who carried out the December 17 corruption investigation, were taken into custody in the Silivri Prison where they were detained and taken to Istanbul Security Directorate on Vatan Caddesi. Many social media users have raised concern of risk of torture for Saygılı and his coworkers in the Vatan police station. Journalist-writer Ergun Babahan also wrote in regards to allegations of torture.

Names close to the Hizmet Movement launched an anti-torture campaign on Twitter. Yakup Saygılı, Yasin Topçu, and Kazım Aksoy, who were brought to the Police Department from the prison due to the ongoing Reza Zarrab case in America, can be subject to heavy torture. Babahan noted that members of the Hizmet Movement, minority and opposition groups are extremely polarized and demonized. Babahan indicated that “No one takes care of these people”. He concluded by saying “Torture is a crime against humanity. Everyone needs to stand up for the mistreated people and condemn torture”.

Source: http://aktifhaber.com/iskence/ergun-babahan-polis-seflerine-yapilan-iskenceyi-yazdi-h110659.html

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Honorary President of Court of Cassation of Turkey, Sami Selçuk: Last Nail in the Coffin

Honory president of Court of Cassation of Turkey wrote on his latest piece for Cumhuriyet that the recent jurisdiction has made the reason for the existence of justice debatable. Sami Selçuk indicated that he is not optimistic, but wishes the legislative branch to prevent the judicial system from falling apart. Selçuk also stated “We have not experienced such significant interference with the judicial system for at least fifty years. It is a pity and very painful. As a former judge, these days are very lamenting and disgraceful.” He concluded by noting “those who hear and evaluate the cries of help are not doing anything…this can therefore only be solved by the parliament. We will see the resistance of the opposition, but I am not optimistic”.

Source: https://www.evrensel.net/haber/283205/yargitay-onursal-baskani-sami-selcuk-tabuta-son-civi

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Jailed father allowed to attend son’s funeral only with handcuffs

Jailed father of Berk Görmez, a 14-year-old boy who died of intestinal cancer last week, could attend his son’s funeral only with his hands cuffed during the ceremony. 14-year-old Berk Görmez qualified for a 97 percent disability rating and had 80 percent hearing loss as well as several other severe health problems. It was reported that he experienced two operations on his intestinal knot last year. He has lost a kidney and his health situation did not improve since then. His mother Fatma filed, to no avail, several requests for Bekir’s release so that he could boost their son’s morale during Berk’s time at the hospital.

Both Fatma and Bekir were fired from their jobs with a post-coup emergency decree which was issued by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a coup attempt in June 2016. Bekir Görmez used to work for Konya-based Mevlana University. Meanwhile, Fatma, a dismissed primary school teacher, has not been able to do her job as a teacher for the past four years as she also suffers from kidney insufficiency. Bekir Görmez is still behind bars over his links to the Gülen group, which the government accuses of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The group denies involvement in the failed takeover.

Source: https://turkeypurge.com/jailed-father-allowed-attend-sons-funeral-handcuffs

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Erdogan’s long shadow reaches Gülen’s schools in Afghanistan

On 12 December, four teachers from Afghan-Turk girls’ high schools disappeared in Kabul. Initially, the school (and even the Afghan interior ministry) had no information on the fate of these teachers. It was later revealed that the Afghan National Security Forces had detained and later released them. The attorney general’s office has not yet cited the reasons behind the detention. The intelligence agency’s decision to release the teachers of the Hizmet educational institution in Afghanistan was a result of strong social media reactions and vehement public opposition against the unlawful detection. Fazal Ahmad Manawi, a member of the school’s parents’ committee maintains that the government wants to hand over the teachers to Turkey’s President who is an archrival of the Turkish scholar, Fethullah Gülen, the founder of Hizmet’s educational, cross-cultural and multi-faith institutions across the world. There are many more detained Turkish teachers and scholars in Afghan jails who are yet to be released.

Remarkably, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education is supposedly gratified with the activities of these schools and has previously stated that their fate depended on the decision of the Afghan President.

Source: http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/12278-erdogan-s-long-shadow-reaches-g-len-s-schools-afghanistan

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“Without evidence, ByLock cannot be used as a reason to arrest!”

Prof. Izzet Özgenç, who is one of the founders of the Turkish Penal Code, emphasized that the Bylock arrests made without revealing any evidence are unlawful. Özgenç said, “Depriving thousands of people of their rights and sentencing them to punishment without properly researching if these people have actually used Bylock, how they have used it, whom they have communicated with, and collecting evidence that proves that they are guilty, is a situation that can never be passed by an excuse.” Recently, Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that close to 11 thousand people have been mistakenly investigated for use of ByLock.

Murat Akkoç, a lawyer who researches Bylock, said that “11 thousand people will be removed from the list, in a similar manner to how 113 thousand people were removed from the list of 215 thousand people on September 2016. Bylock user list, which was announced as 215 thousand on September 2016, 113 thousand people will be removed from the list of 11 thousand people from the same reasons. The 91 thousand people remaining on the list is as innocent as the 124 thousand people released in the 16 months period.”

Source: http://aktifhaber.com/gundem/delil-olmadan-bylockla-tutuklamanin-mazereti-olamaz-h110515.html

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There are 624 children under the age of six in prison

The Justice Ministry announced that there are 624 children under the age of six staying in prisons with their mothers. There are 111 babies under age of one in prisons, and 157 children aged between one and two years old. This number increased by 20% compared to last year. It is also reported that 51 of the children in prison are non-Turkish nationals.

Source: http://aktifhaber.com/gundem/cezaevlerinde-alti-yas-altinda-624-cocuk-var-h110536.html

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The court did not discharge Eray’s father once again

Ender Özkul, father of Muhammed Eray (13), was initially sacked from his deputy police chief position and then arrested with decree laws during the State of Emergency. Özkul’s son Eray was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer and his condition has exacerbated every day he is apart from his father. On January 10 Özkul was brought back to court for trial, but was not discharged. Eray’s mother, Oya Özkul, said on social media that Eray became ill because he was distressed with his father’s arrest. Several Fenerbahçe soccer players have visited Eray in Istanbul to give him morale.

Source: http://aktifhaber.com/15-temmuz/mahkeme-erayin-babasini-yine-tahliye-etmedi-h110472.html

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CPJ announces Press Oppressors awards

CPJ, which is one of the significant promoters and defenders of press freedom and the rights of journalists, recognized world leaders that have significantly harmed the press, undermined norms supporting freedom of the media in their countries and gone beyond to silenced critical voices. Following are the ranking of leaders in five categories:

Most Thin-skinned

Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Turkish authorities have repeatedly charged journalists, news outlets, and social media users for insulting Erdoğan, insulting other Turkish leaders, and insulting “Turkishness” in general. Over the course of 2016, the Turkish judicial system handled 46,193 cases of “insulting the president” or “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the parliament, the government, or the institutions of the judiciary,” the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported in June 2017, citing figures from the Justice Ministry.

Runner-Up: President Donald Trump, United States

In response to media coverage critical of him, Trump has threatened to “open-up” U.S. libel laws, sue news outlets, and subject their broadcast licenses to review. He regularly attacks outlets and individual journalists on Twitter and in speeches, calling them “sad,” “failing,” or “garbage.” Since declaring his presidential candidacy in 2015, Trump has posted about 1,000 tweets critical of the press. CPJ research shows that when public figures and political leaders lob insults at the media, they encourage self-censorship and expose journalists to unnecessary risk.

Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press

Winner: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1. Every journalist jailed for their work in Turkey is under investigation for, or charged with, anti-state crimes — in most cases for belonging to, aiding, or making propaganda for an alleged terrorist organization.

Runner-Up: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt

Of at least 20 journalists jailed in Egypt at the time of CPJ’s latest prison census, 18 were charged with, or convicted of, anti-state crimes such as aiding or inciting terrorism or belonging to banned groups. In 2017, Sisi’s government passed a new anti-terrorism law that furthered its crackdown on the press by, among other things, enabling authorities to put journalists acquitted of terrorism-related charges on a watch list that restricts their financial and other rights, according to news reports.

Tightest Grip on Media

Winner: President Xi Jinping, China

Beijing, under the increasingly iron grip of Xi, uses a combination of traditional censorship and internet controls to keep the news media in line. China is consistently one of the world’s worst jailers of the press; in 2017 it was the second worst globally, with at least 41 journalists in prison. Most traditional media is controlled by the government, and journalists risk losing their jobs or being banned from traveling if they push the boundaries of censorship directives at their news outlets or in personal blogs. Reporters’ sources and international journalists are also harassed and obstructed. Internet controls include the Great Firewall, human and automated censors, and pressure on technology companies to comply.

Runner-Up: President Vladimir Putin, Russia

Under Putin, independent media has been all but eradicated as journalists experience threats of violence or imprisonment and other types of harassment. His government recently ordered international news outlets including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to register as foreign agents (in response to a parallel move by the U.S.), and blocked their journalists from entering Parliament. Russian authorities have tried with varying success to emulate the Chinese model of internet censorship.

Biggest Backslider in Press Freedom

Winner: State Counselor and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar

CPJ listed Myanmar in 2015 as the ninth most censored country worldwide, but after Suu Kyi’s party took power in 2016, the last five journalists in jail were pardoned and hopes for media freedom were high. However, most of the legal structure that has long restricted the press remains in place and journalists continue to be imprisoned. Security officials obstruct and harass journalists trying to cover what the U.N. has termed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by authorities in the country’s northern Rakhine State. On December 12, two Reuters reporters covering the crisis were arrested on suspicion of violating the Official Secrets Act and held incommunicado for two weeks before being allowed to see their lawyer and families. Reuters reported that if convicted, the pair could face up to 14 years in prison.

Runner-Up: President Andrzej Duda, Poland

Under Duda, the conservative-nationalist government led by the Law and Justice party has dramatically changed the reputation of Poland, which for decades was a symbol of democracy for its peaceful journey from communism to European Union membership. The independent media was a pillar of that transition. More recently, the government has taken direct control of public media and announced plans to change regulations in a way that would force foreign owners of news outlets to give up their majority stakes, according to news reports. Government offices have canceled subscriptions to pro-opposition news outlets, while state-owned companies redirected advertising money to friendly media, according to U.S. watchdog Freedom House. In December, Poland’s media regulator levied a 1.5 million zloty ($415,000) fine on leading news broadcaster TVN24 in relation to its coverage of protests in parliament in 2016, according to news reports which cited critics as saying the government is trying to warn journalists to self-censor. The government’s parallel moves to reform the judiciary prompted the European Commission in December to take the unprecedented step of launching a process intended to suspend the country’s voting rights in the European Union.

Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom

Winner: President Donald Trump, United States

The United States, with its First Amendment protection for a free press, has long stood as a beacon for independent media around the world. While previous U.S. presidents have each criticized the press to some degree, they have also made public commitments to uphold its essential role in democracy, at home and abroad. Trump, by contrast, has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdoğan, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s “fake news” epithet, and Erdoğan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression. As Trump and other Western powers fail to pressure the world’s most repressive leaders into improving the climate for press freedom, the number of journalists in prison globally is at a record high.

Source: https://cpj.org/blog/2018/01/press-oppressor-awards-trump-fake-news-fakies.php

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