AST Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly – March 2018
Download as pdf: AST_Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly_March
AST Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly – March 2018
Download as pdf: AST_Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly_March
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.
AST Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly – February 2018
Download as pdf: AST_Turkey’s Human Rights Violations Monthly_February
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.
“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.
#Turkey: All is not lost for the imprisoned journalists, the European Court of Human Rights (@ECHRPublication) can still change the situation. This is urgent, ECHR, you need to act quickly! #SaveTurkishJournalistshttps://t.co/DDwkdakC0v pic.twitter.com/rFmBM0STG1
— RSF (@RSF_inter) March 2, 2018
A petition campaign has been launched for the release from prison of 78-year-old Sise Bingöl, who is suffering from heart and lung disease and hypertension, as reported by Bianet.
Bingöl was detained and arrested in the Varto district of Muş province on April 6, 2017. She was sentenced to four years, two months in prison on charges of “willingly and knowingly aiding an illegal organization.”
She suffered a heart attack one month before she was imprisoned.
Bingöl was first confined to Muş’s Type E Prison when she was arrested. She was later transferred to the Tarsus Type T Closed Prison, on October 4, 2017, without the knowledge of her family. The prison administration informed her relatives a week after the transfer.
The petition campaign text demands that Bingöl, whose health has been worsening while in prison, to be released on probation.
Sick prisoners can apply to the court with their medical reports for a deferral of their sentences. As of the time of writing, more than 2,500 signatures had been collected for Bingöl’s release.
According to data compiled by the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are currently 1,025 sick prisoners in Turkish penal institutions, 357 of whom are in critical condition.
Campaign link (in Turkish):
Dear President Erdoğan,
We wish to draw your attention to the damage being done to the Republic of Turkey, to its reputation and the dignity and well-being of its citizens, through what leading authorities on freedom of expression deem to be the unlawful detention and wrongful conviction of writers and thinkers.
In a Memorandum on the Freedom of Expression in Turkey (2017), Nils Muižnieks, then Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights, warned:
“The space for democratic debate in Turkey has shrunk alarmingly following increased judicial harassment of large strata of society, including journalists, members of parliament, academics and ordinary citizens, and government action which has reduced pluralism and led to self-censorship. This deterioration came about in a very difficult context, but neither the attempted coup nor other terrorist threats faced by Turkey, can justify measures that infringe media freedom and disavow the rule of law to such an extent.
“The authorities should urgently change course by overhauling criminal legislation and practice, redevelop judicial independence and reaffirm their commitment to protect free speech.”
There is no clearer example of the commissioner’s concern that the detention in September 2016 of Ahmet Altan, a bestselling novelist and columnist; Mehmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and essayist; and Nazlı Ilıcak, a prominent journalist – all as part of a wave of arrests following the failed July 2016 coup. These writers were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence or force. The prosecutors originally wanted to charge them with giving “subliminal messages” to coup supporters while appearing on a television panel show. The ensuing tide of public ridicule made them change that accusation to using rhetoric “evocative of a coup”. Indeed, Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency called the case “The Coup Evocation Trial”.
As noted in the commissioner’s report, the evidence considered by the judge in Ahmet Altan’s case was limited to a story dating from 2010 in Taraf newspaper (of which Ahmet Altan had been the editor-in-chief until 2012), three of his op-ed columns and a TV appearance. The evidence against the other defendants was equally insubstantial. All these writers had spent their careers opposing coups and militarism of any sort, and yet were charged with aiding an armed terrorist organisation and staging a coup.
The commissioner saw the detention and prosecution of Altan brothers as part of a broader pattern of repression in Turkey against those expressing dissent or criticism of the authorities. He considered such detentions and prosecutions to have violated human rights and undermined the rule of law. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, concurred and dubbed the legal proceedings a “show trial”.
Turkey’s own constitutional court concurred with this criticism. On 11 January this year, it ruled that Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Şahin Alpay’s rights were being violated by pre-trial detention, and that they should be released. Yet the first-degree courts refused to implement the higher constitutional court’s decision, thus placing the judicial system in criminal violation of the constitution. Mr President, you must surely be concerned that the lower criminal court’s defiance and this non-legal decision was backed by the spokesperson of your government.
On 16 February 2018, the Altan brothers and Ilıcak were sentenced to aggravated life sentences, precluding them from any prospect of a future amnesty.
President Erdoğan, we the undersigned share the following opinion of David Kaye: “The court decision condemning journalists to aggravated life in prison for their work, without presenting substantial proof of their involvement in the coup attempt or ensuring a fair trial, critically threatens journalism and with it the remnants of freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey”.
In April 1998, you yourself were stripped of your position as mayor of Istanbul, banned from political office, and sentenced to prison for 10 months, for reciting a poem during a public speech in December 1997 through the same article 312 of the penal code. This was unjust, unlawful and cruel. Many human rights organisations – which defended you then – are appalled at the violations now occurring in your country. Amnesty International, PEN International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Article 19, and Reporters Without Borders are among those who oppose the recent court decision.
During a ceremony in honour of Çetin Altan, on 2 February 2009, you declared publicly that “Turkey is no longer the same old Turkey who used to sentence its great writers to prison – this era is gone for ever.” Among the audience were Çetin Altan’s two sons: Ahmet and Mehmet. Nine years later, they are sentenced to life; isn’t that a fundamental contradiction?
Under these circumstances, we voice the concern of many inside Turkey itself, of its allies and of the multilateral organisations of which it is a member. We call for the abrogation of the state of emergency, a quick return to the rule of law and for full freedom of speech and expression. Such a move would result in the speedy acquittal on appeal of Ms Ilıcak and the Altan brothers, and the immediate release of others wrongfully detained. Better still, it would make Turkey again a proud member of the free world.
Full list of Nobel laureate signatories:
Svetlana Alexievich, Philip W Anderson, Aaron Ciechanover, JM Coetzee, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Elias J Corey, Gerhard Ertl, Albert Fert, Edmond H Fischer, Andrew Z Fire, Andre Geim, Sheldon Glashow, Serge Haroche, Leland H Hartwell, Oliver Hart, Richard Henderson, Dudley Herschbach, Avram Hershko, Roald Hoffmann, Robert Huber, Tim Hunt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Elfriede Jelinek, Eric S Maskin, Hartmut Michel, Herta Müller, VS Naipaul, William D Phillips, John C Polanyi, Richard J Roberts, Randy W Schekman, Wole Soyinka, Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas C Südhof, Jack W Szostak, Mario Vargas Llosa, J Robin Warren, Eric F Wieschaus
It was revealed that Turkish teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu, who had been tortured to death under police custody in the wake of a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, over his alleged membership to the Gülen movement, was found innocent after 1,5 years and he was reinstated to his duty(!)
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which led to the death of Açıkkollu under the police custody, has eventually decided over the innocence of the deceased teacher.
The reinstatement decision for teacher Açıkkolu was given by Turkish Education Ministry on Feb. 7, 2018, with the decision number E.2561776. The official document for the reinstatement of Açıkkolu was delivered by the principal of the school, that he used to work for, to Açıkkollu’s teacher wife, who had also been dismissed from her duty by a government decree under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Thus, the honor of the late Gökhan Açıkkollu was restored by saying a simple ‘pardon’ after 1,5 years passed over his death(!)
Açıkkollu was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and stayed in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture. He was never officially interrogated, and the police did not even take a statement from him. Instead, he was taken from his detention cell every day to face torture and rushed to the hospital when his condition deteriorated, only to be shipped back to detention. He told doctors about abuse and torture; yet, in some cases, his statements were not even registered in medical reports, and evidence of physical abuse was covered up under pressure from the police.
Teacher Açıkkollu was beaten, slapped in the face, kicked in the rib cage, kneed in the back and his head banged against the wall. His medical check-up before he was put in detention showed no signs of any heart troubles; yet, he was pronounced dead due to heart failure. When he collapsed in his cell, emergency services were belatedly called and he died in detention, although official records were doctored to reject the false fact that he died at the hospital.
Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), emphasized that Açıkkollu lost his life in consequence of a heart attack due to the torture he was exposed to in her report.
His family had found out his death when they were called to the İstanbul Forensic Medicine Institute. The ill-treatment for Açıkkollu continued here as well. It was said that the funeral could be given on condition that he was to be buried in “a graveyard of the traitors,” prepared by İstanbul Greater Municipality for the alleged “traitors,” despite he was not tried yet and even his interrogation was not done. Imams assigned by the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) did not even wash his funeral and they had refused to conduct a funeral prayers for Açıkkollu.
His family had to disinfect the funeral with their own efforts and was obliged to take him to his hometown, Konya province, with their own vehicle. Here too, the imam of the local mosque did not perform the funeral prayer because of the instruction given by the Religious Affairs Directorate by saying that the ‘funeral prayer will not be performed for the traitors.’ So, the last duty for him was also done by his close relatives.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry on Monday announced that 845 people have been detained on terror charges due to their protests or posts on social media critical of a Turkish military incursion in the northern Syrian town of Afrin, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Meanwhile, two construction workers who went to İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport on Feb. 23 to fly to their hometown of Diyarbakır were detained by police after officers seized their mobile phones and checked their social media accounts, the Evrensel daily reported on Monday.
The workers, Nazım Toplu and Ahmet Polat, were stopped by the police after they arrived at the airport on the grounds that they looked suspicious. They underwent criminal record checks (GBT), and the police found that they were not the subject of any investigation.
Yet, the police officers asked the workers to open their Facebook accounts when the workers were about to board their plane. The workers refused and said it was illegal for them to ask this. Then, the police officers seized the workers’ mobile phones and entered their social media accounts from the phones.
The police officers detained the workers due to their social media accounts. It was not clear what messages the workers had posted, but nowadays the detention of individuals due to their critical messages on social media about the government or Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is very common.
The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The despotic Turkish government and autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have reacted strongly to people who oppose the operation, and prosecutor’s offices have initiated investigations into those who share social media messages critical of the operation.
President Erdoğan on Jan. 21 warned the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) not to take to the streets to protest the operation in Afrin: “You are being closely followed. If you try to take to the streets, know that our security forces will be at your neck.”
“If anyone is in the streets upon calls [from the HDP], they will pay dearly for it. This is a national fight, and whoever opposes us will be crushed,” Erdoğan added.
Kral FM radio host Ali Şentürk, known as “Afrikalı Ali,” called on security forces to kill anybody who criticizes Turkey’s operation in Afrin.
Yusuf Ozan, a presenter for the pro-government Akit TV, last Sunday targeted the Cumhuriyet daily over a story it ran on the Afrin operation in Syria, saying Cumhuriyet journalists deserve to be executed.