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Rule of Law & Arbitrary Detention

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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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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