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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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Denied Early Medical Treatment, Turkish Man Dies After Released From Prison

Mehmet Ozbir, 41, died of cancer shortly after he was released in prison, adding to an already growing toll of deaths took place when authorities refused to released terminally ill prisoners in the aftermath of the 2016 coup.

The health condition of Ozbir, a businessman of modest scale from Alasehir district in the western province of Manisa, steadily worsened in recent months. He was imprisoned as part of a sweeping crackdown on people affiliated with Gulen Movement in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

The businessman was imprisoned in pretrial detention for 17 months before his release. The denial of proper medical treatment and the refusal by authorities to release him on time only exacerbated his situation.

One of his arms was amputated because the medical treatment was provided so late. When his health state worsened, the prison officials agreed to his release to avoid any responsibility in the case of his death.

Despite efforts by doctors in recent weeks, Ozbir succumbed to worsening cancer in the hospital.

His death reveals an acute problem in Turkish prisons. There are tens of people who died because of denial of access to medical treatment in prison. Ozbir’s case is only the latest example in this regard.

Ozbir was imprisoned over an anonymous tip and for his membership in ASIAD, a non-profit business organization affiliated with Gulen Movement in Alasehir.

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Turkish Journalist in Germany Concerned Over Life Amid Threats From Erdogan

As the whole world still struggles to make sense of the shroud of fog over the mysterious case of a Saudi journalist whose sudden disappearance in Istanbul shuddered the international community, a Turkish journalist living in self-imposed exile in Germany has expressed fears over his own wellbeing and his family’s safety in Turkey.

Can Dundar, former editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily, revealed his deep-seated anxiety and dread over threats by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking in an interview with Deutsche Welle, Dundar said Erdogan’s opponents are at risk everywhere in the world. His remarks came in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s startling disappearance in Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The incident is still riddled with mystery and enigma, with little answers available over a set of questions about the fate of the critical journalist.

Dundar has found himself again in the crosshairs of the Turkish president as he accused the journalist at a recent press conference in Berlin of being a foreign spy working for foreign governments. In the eyes of the Turkish government, he has already been painted as an enemy figure after the Cumhuriyet, under his editorial watch, published records of Turkey’s arms shipment to the warring sides in Syria in 2015.

President Erdogan vowed to not let him go without a punishment for leaking “classified state secrets.” After serving a brief time in jail, the journalist was released pending trial. He survived an assassination attempt outside Istanbul Caglayan Courthouse.

It was the last straw that paved the way for his departure from Turkey en route to Germany. But the Turkish authorities seized her wife’s passport and did not allow her to travel with Dundar.

In remarks to Deutsche Welle, Dundar dismissed Erdogan’s spy allegations as politically motivated.

When asked about Erdogan’s treason and spy remarks, Dundar called the Turkish strongman a liar.

“Because there are no journalists in jail on terrorist charges. They are all convicted or accused of leaking state secrets, writing against the government, being critical about the government’s policies, etc.. So they are just journalists, not terrorists,” he told Deutsche Welle. “But calling that kind of thing terrorism is a kind of traditional attitude of this government, unfortunately,” he added.

Dundar whose family is still in Turkey is extremely worried about their wellbeing. He thinks that the Erdogan government keeps her wife as a hostage in Turkey.

When Erdogan was invited to Germany for an official visit, the invitation divided political parties and generated a heated debate over how to handle with an increasingly unruly and authoritarian leader. Many parties in Bundestag expressed their opposition to Erdogan’s visit.

When asked about Germany’s response to Erdogan so far regarding the state of political affairs in Turkey, Dundar appeared satisfied with the messages and calls clearly conveyed by the German side to the Turkish leader during his visit to Berlin in late September.

In the beginning, Dundar thought that the German approach was meek and tepid against Erdogan’s crackdown on media and democracy in Turkey. But later, the Turkish journalist has begun to appreciate Germany’s dire challenge to tread a delicate balancing act between pushing Ankara for democratic reforms and the need to preserve the bilateral relationship as smoothly as possible.

On Thursday, writing for Foreign Policy, Steven Cook shared Dundar’s concerns in the face of threats from authoritarian leaders.

“Ours is an era of international thuggishness combined with a total absence of norms. That makes everyone a target,” he wrote, delving into the riddling case of Saudi journalist and recalling the authoritarian shift in the past decade around the world.

From Egpyt to China, from Turkey to Hungary and Venezuela, dissidents and critical journalists increasingly feel less safe. The unknown fate of Khashoggi remains as a dreadful warning and lesson for others to see. Dundar is one of them. Facing Erdogan’s incessant threats, he is right to be concerned and alarmed.

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Disappearance of Saudi Journalist in Istanbul Consulate Stuns Whole World

The disappearance or alleged murder of a critical Saudi journalist in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has created shockwaves across the world and sent a chilling echo for other Saudi dissidents across the region.

According to the Turkish authorities, Jamal Khashoggi has been killed by Saudi agents and his body was dismembered. Riyadh has categorically denied those allegations and pledged to work with the Turkish officials for a robust and thorough investigation to enlighten the incident.

The international community, already dismayed and alarmed by acts of the increasing violence against members of the media world, is, quite understandably, rattled by the startling case of Khashoggi. And it came after INTERPOL’s Chinese president’s arrest in China, adding a new layer of anxiety over the international fallout of domestic political score-settling.

If the Turkish claims about murder are true, it represents completely a new phase in the crackdown on critical journalists. The venue of the incident, a consulate, serves as a stark reminder for dissidents living abroad about the stakes of any form of engagement or contact with an official body of their home country. No critic would feel safe to enter a consulate or a diplomatic compound of a given country, without having second thoughts after the Khashoggi incident.

The Turkish government appeared appalled and therefore reacted in indignation against the Saudi act breaching diplomatic norms in blatant disregard of the friendly relationship that mostly defined the nature of bilateral ties between the two powers of the Middle East.

Still, the case remains to be a matter of puzzling mystery, with both Turkish and Saudi sides lacking credibility to bolster their narratives. While pro-government media and some anonymous Turkish security sources were quick to squarely pin the blame on the Kingdom, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has struck a measured and cautious tone, refraining from finger-pointing at Riyadh.

Khashoggi was last seen on Saturday. His fiancee Hatice Cengiz told media that he went to the Consulate but never showed up again. The Turkish media released video footage of a group of people believed to be Saudi agents were specifically assigned by Riyadh to kill and remove the journalist’s body. But the Turkish authorities did never offer evidence to back up their claims, while the Saudi side also stumbled in its account of the story by failing to prove Khashoggi’s departure from the Consulate via camera footage.

The issue has expectedly unsettled Turkey’s political landscape and created an uproar. But,
considering Turkey’s own dismal record in mind, Ankara’s concerns for morality and norms ring hollow and seem self-contradictory. Steven Cook, writing for Foreign Policy, addressed such moral contradictions in a recent op-ed.

Not long ago, Turkey’s intelligence operatives, in cooperation with local security agency, conducted a bold operation in Moldova to snatch a group of teachers linked with a civil society movement critical of President Erdogan’s rule.

Here a question emerges. Where did the Saudi regime get such confidence to push the boundaries of handling with critics with that extreme path? The question appears more pertinent after bearing Turkey’s similar operations in mind. It is no exaggeration, after all, to meditate that it was Ankara’s brutal clampdown on opponents at home and abroad with all means available that would have encouraged Riyadh to execute the murder or steered the disappearance act in its consulate in Turkey, but not somewhere else.

In this respect, Turkey’s own practices might plausibly have emboldened Saudi Arabia. Turkey used its own embassy in Kosovo to spirit Gulen-affiliated teachers away from the country. Similar methods also took place in Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia and Gabon where Turkey’s diplomatic compounds served as launchpads for conducting operations. Both Ankara’s use of its diplomatic facilities as a cover to disguise its intelligence operations and the disappearance of a journalist in Saudi Consulate in Istanbul mark a new step in countries’ zealous haunt for critics living abroad.

For dissidents, as Cook and all other commentators opined, the message is disheartening and worrisome. Nowhere is safe for free-minded and critical people. The whole world, especially the Western countries with strong democratic traditions, must lend additional voice to condemn, denounce and criticize the disappearance of the Saudi journalist at a diplomatic compound.

Unless the whole world unites in their strong condemnation, the Istanbul incident would set a terrible precedent for future behaviors of autocratic governments in dealing with dissident citizens abroad.

In conclusion, an act of crackdown, overseas operations to target dissidents abroad and the use of diplomatic compounds for such operations would no doubt set an example or a source of inspiration for other authoritarian regimes to follow through. In Istanbul, all contours of such a possibility were abundantly present and pointed. To stop this learning process through copy-past practices from one another’s authoritarian playbook, a collective international response and cooperation is a must, and a long overdue effort that is urgently needed to be employed.

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International Bar Association Raises Judicial Independence in Turkey to UN

09/28/2018

International Bar Association Raises Judicial Independence in Turkey to UN

In a joint submission with two other groups, the International Bar Association (IBA) raised the issue of independence of judges and judicial independence in Turkey to a special rapporteur from the United Nations.

The dismal state of rule of law and the judiciary in Turkey continues to attract attention from relevant international bodies. In cooperation with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) submitted a report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges and Lawyers.

The report mostly focuses on the collapse of the rights and protections regarding the legal profession in a steady way since 2010. But, according to the study, the situation concerns Turkey’s judiciary, judicial independence and other legal rights have dramatically been shredded and worsened since the failed 2016 coup. Both during and after the state of emergency, members of judiciary faced political crackdown and imprisonment en masse.

“Prior to the failed attempt, the Turkish government had been increasingly interfering with, and exercising undue influence over, the legal profession using adverse constitutional and legislative reforms together with systematic attacks against judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other legal professionals,” the study noted.

Since the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has only sharpened its clampdown on its social and political opponents, as well as members of the judiciary.

Thousands of military officials, police officers, diplomats, academics, teachers, judges and prosecutors have been dismissed over coup terrorism-related charges with little evidence.

To this date, the report stated that “4,279 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed.”

“Five hundred and ninety lawyers have been arrested, 1,546 prosecuted and 181 convicted.”

Resource:
https://twitter.com/IBAHRI/status/1045312267762487297

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PRESS RELEASE about Unlawful detainments of six Turkish educationists in Moldova

PRESS RELEASE

For urgent action 09/06/2018

Unlawful detainments of six Turkish educationists in Moldova

Today, on September 6, 2018 six Turkish nationals in Moldova were detained. SIS agents of Moldova conducted the detainment of Vice Director and five educationists in Orizont Moldovan-Turkish Educational Institutions early hours in the morning. The detainees’ names were affirmed as Riza Dogan, Hasan Karacaoglu, Yasin Ozdil, Mujdat Celebi, Huseyin Bayraktar and Feridun Tufekci. The wife of Hasan Karacaoglu, the Vice director, stated that they have been living in Moldova for 20 years. Except Huseyin Bayraktar, five of the detainees are asylum seekers who are supposed to be granted by the end of September.

This is not how a modern European country should be treating the people that legally have been living there and been a successful part of Moldova education industry. If any of those Turkish nationals were part of any illegal activity, they should be prosecuted in Moldova court system as long as there is evidence to prosecute them. This is how it is done in modern and civilized countries, and I’m sure that you would not want Moldova to be seen as an authoritarian
country such as Turkey.

This news will spread all over European and US media outlets and create a huge backlash from all private citizens and human right organizations against the beautiful country of Moldova.

www.silencedturkey.org -help@silencedturkey.org – 1-540-209-1934 – @silencedturkey

And as the Turkish-Americans we are deeply concerned about this unlawful detainment incident. We ask the Moldovan authorities to take urgent action for implementing the rule of law, for releasing the detainees who have been contributing to the country of Moldova, and providing protection of the them.

Hafza Y. Girdap
Spokesperson and Women Affairs Director

PRESS RELEASE PDF:
https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/press-release-Moldova-case.pdf

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Urgent action about detainments of six Turkish educationists in Moldova

Urgent action about detainments of six Turkish educationists in Moldova

On September 6, 2018, six Turkish nationals in Moldova were detained. SIS agents of Moldova conducted the detainment of Vice Director and five educationists in Orizont Moldovan-Turkish Educational Institutions early hours in the morning. The detainees’ names were affirmed as Riza Dogan, Hasan Karacaoglu, Yasin Ozdil, Mujdat Celebi, Huseyin Bayraktar and Feridun Tufekci. The wife of Hasan Karacaoglu, the Vice director, stated that they have been living in Moldova for 20 years. Except for Huseyin Bayraktar, five of the detainees are asylum seekers who are supposed to be granted by the end of September.

Additionally; the director of Orizont Schools, Turgay Sen, was detained without any explanation in March 2018 and released in April after applying for asylum.

It is internationally known that Turkish government tracks the Gulen followers or sympathizers who have been targeted oppressively since the failed coup attempt. Abductions, detainments, and deportations take place in such countries where rule of law and democracy are not applied. And the Turkish government urges those countries to implement these illegal actions. Given the recent abduction cases in different countries such as Mongolia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Malaysia, Kirghizistan, Pakistan and also threats of deportation to Turkey where a fair trial is not likely nowadays and there is fear of torture; an urgent action to release these people and to provide protection for them is extremely vital.

As reported by families of detainees and local media resources, the lawyers are not allowed to communicate with them. Amnesty International Moldova Director Cristina Pereteatcu stated that a possible deportation would be taken into consideration. It was also reported that the operation was conducted by SIS Antiterror agents which means judicial authorities are not involved in the case. Whereabouts of detainees are still unknown. The Minister of Justice stated that Moldova could be exposed to a penalty by ECHR because of the detainment and possible deportation of Turkish educationists.

We write you today to emphasize our great concern about the detainment and prospective extradition of these six educationists and also to request to take urgent action from the Government of Moldova to release and provide protection of human rights of them along with all other Hizmet movement affiliated people.

Sincerely,

AST letter PDF:
https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Moldova-case.pdf

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Witness Confirms Gokhan Teacher Tortured to Death by Police

Witness Confirms Gokhan Teacher Tortured to Death by Police

Prison Cellmate Recollects Moments of Horror After Teacher’s Suspicious Death

Two years after his tragic death, details of teacher Gokhan Acikkolu’s last days have emerged and come to public scrutiny once again as one of his prison cellmates offered a harrowing account into the torture claims.

The Turkish public was stunned by revelations over police torture of Acikkolu in summer 2016. The Turkish authorities steadfastly refused torture claims then and stamped out an independent investigation into the tragic incident. In the official account, he died because of health problems presaging his prison days.

But according to his family, and independent observers, Acikkolu was tortured to death. He was brutally beaten and deprived of medical treatment although he suffered a heart attack in prison. Prison administration turned down his family’s quest for transferring him to a hospital for a proper treatment and denied access to most needed medicines for his diabetes. When he was finally brought to a hospital in August 2016, it was too late to save him.

More startling and disturbing was the fact that almost two years after his death, authorities cleared him of coup-related and terrorism charges and restored the now deceased teacher back to his post. It was too little and too late.

How he died in prison still remains a matter of controversy and mystery. The way how the Turkish government handled the case fuels genuine skepticism and suspicion over the official narrative. Almost nobody believes it in Turkey.

And with a former prison cellmate of the deceased teacher now publicly speaking about his last days, the issue has taken a new turn. Journalist Cevheri Guven, living in northern Greece after fleeing the persecution in Turkey, spoke to Bold Medya, divulging details about how police headquarters in Istanbul became the center of torture for people who were taken into custody in the post-coup crackdown.

The Gokhan teacher appears to be the first victim of torture in this notorious place. Guven says that there are more than 15 witnesses who corroborate the claim that Acikkolu was tortured to death.

A teacher, who spoke to Bold Media on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution back in Turkey, was staying in the next cell to Acikkolu’s room. He also suffered torture at the same place, Istanbul Police Department headquarters.

There was a doctor in the witness’ room. He tells Bold Medya that one day there was a chaotic and urgent hurry on the part of policemen who back and forth moved from one place to another in a state of panic in the corridors.

Panic pervaded the atmosphere, and police shouted at one another. At one point, the door of their cell was wide opened. Police fetched the doctor there and urged him to check the situation of Gokhan teacher next room.

The doctor, the witness said, was trembling and his hands were shaking when he returned the room. Police moved Gokhan teacher out. “We lost the friend [Gokhan teacher],” the doctor told other prisoners in the cell.

The account of the witness challenges the prosecutor’s official document about the cause of Acikkolu’s death. The teacher, the prosecutor wrote, died of his diabetes. But the doctor, who, upon the request of police officers, first intervened to help Acikkolu said he died of beating. He appeared to receive fatal blows to his head and died of torture, not diabetes.

Cerebral hemorrhage or heart attack, the doctor said was the probable cause of Acikkolu’s death, the witness told in a new video interview.

Acikkolu was among the tens of thousands of people who had been remanded immediately in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016. He was a history teacher at a public school in Istanbul’s Umraniye district when he, along with his wife, were both dismissed in a sweeping purge campaign.

His death was a particular case that stained public conscience as authorities denied a funeral service for his family. Istanbul Mayor’s Office refused to provide a space in a graveyard, so did the local officials in Acikkolu’s hometown, a village in the central province of Konya. Officials even proposed burying him in the “cemetery of traitors,” a policy briefly introduced as a form of punishment against coup plotters. Facing public criticism, the government later retracted the idea.

The teacher was interrogated neither by a prosecutor nor by the police officials. During his detention, he only faced mistreatment and, according to his family, torture. When his situation deteriorated, he was taken to a hospital, only to be sent back to the police detention.

Guven details how his wife, Mumine Acikkollu, struggled to deliver his medicines in the face of the official ban. After her first visit to custody to see her husband, she detected signs of torture and lodged a petition with the office of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor to investigate whether her husband faced torture. But her efforts yielded no tangible result in the chaotic atmosphere of the post-coup era.

Their agony did not end with the teacher’s death. The inhumane treatment by authorities and denial of funeral service added to their plight.

Two years after into his death, authorities still refuse to launch an investigation into the role of police officers over his death. But as more and more people speak out and more witnesses come out to offer their sides of the story, it becomes ever difficult for authorities to bury the truth and drag their foot for a thorough probe.

Acikkollu might have been the first victim, but certainly was not the last one. As long as his case remains unresolved, police officers and officials, who commit crimes against humanity and involve in torture, would acquire the feeling that they may get away with whatever they do. They should not have such an impunity and freedom.

If Acikkollu’s torturers are brought to justice, other officials would be deterred and further such incidents would be prevented.


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Well-known Turkish Professor Dies in Prison

Professor Sabri Colak, who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison over links to Gulen Movement, died at age of 69 in a prison in the eastern province of Van in Turkey.

The professor, who was remanded in the sweeping post-coup crackdown targeting real and perceived sympathizers of Gulen Movement, had heart problems.

Despite numerous attempts by his lawyer and family for his release to get a proper and adequate medical treatment, authorities refused to free him.

He was recently convicted of being a member to a “terrorist organization,” after months of imprisonment pending trial. The Turkish government labeled faith-based Gulen Movement as a terrorist outfit and placed the blame on the movement for the failed July 15 coup attempt in 2016.

More than 150,000 public servants have been either dismissed or suspended from civil service over alleged ties to the movement in the aftermath of the coup. The purge hit hard Turkey’s academia as well. Colak retired after decades of service in Ataturk University Engineering Department in the eastern province of Erzurum.

He will be laid into rest in his hometown of Pasinler, a district of Erzurum.

His death was the latest of a series of deaths in Turkey’s prisons. More than 70 people have died either of torture of lack of medical treatment as authorities frequently ignore medical reports about terminally ill prisoners.

Source:
http://aktifhaber.com/m/yasam/prof-dr-sabri-colak-cezaevinde-hayatini-kaybetti-h121900.html

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Torture in Turkey reported by journalist Cevheri Guven

Α documentary about the “Torture Farm’ in the capital city of Turkey, Ankara.

The video was prepared by Bold Media.

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