Turkey increased restrictions on the media, political opposition, and human rights defenders during 2017, on the back of a very narrow referendum, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2018. Turkey also introduced a presidential system with insufficient democratic checks and balances against the president’s abuse of power. “Everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Under the state of emergency, the government has failed to provide redress for the over 100,000 civil servants dismissed, as well as hundreds of media outlets, associations, and other institutions closed down.
Ayşe Ateş, an accountant dismissed from her job due to the statutory decrees in Turkey, gave birth today. Despite the doctor’s advice, the prosecutor denied Ayşe Ateş’s mother to stay with her. Soldiers waited for Ayşe Ateş outside the delivery room entrance. After the delivery, Ayşe Ateş and her one-day-old baby were brought back to the prison. CHP Deputy and human rights activist lawyer Sezgin Tanrıkulu said, “History has not seen such unscrupulousness”.
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”.
Barış Kerem and Oğuzhan Erkul were shot and killed by police officers in the Gazi Quarter of Istanbul. Attorney Meral Hanbayat’s proposal for the detainment of the accused police officers was denied by the Istanbul High Criminal Court on grounds of the Article 23 of State of Emergency laws. Attorney Hanbayat indicates that the “investigations procedures on police officers results without arrests” clause that should be used for legitimate self-defense is being used arbitrarily. Hanabayat will appeal to a higher court by noting that the decision is against the law. Accused police officers have not been dismissed, nor have they faced administrative investigation. Hanbayat stated that police officers are using firearms arbitrarily and often target vulnerable parts of people’s bodies.
Ç. K. (27 years old), who lives in a city in Southeast Turkey visited a public hospital last week. She was referred to the Diyarbakir Obstetrics Hospital and when they found at she was HIV-infected; she was later referred to the Dicle University Hospital.
The standby doctor, F.F., refused to perform the operation. As a result, Ç.K. had to wait in the emergency room for five and half hours. Doctor E.A. accepted to perform the operation and Ç.K. was taken inside the operating room at 21:30.
However, the operation could not start due to lack of necessary tools and protective clothing. The materials were requested from the Diyarbakir Obstetrics Hospital. The surgery started at 22:45 At the end of the operation, assistant D.D. said he/she was stuck with a needle and had to leave the operation. The gloves indicated to be 100 percent protective were not protective. The baby and the assistant are both under observation now.
Doctor E.A. accepted to perform the operation if the family could transfer TL 1500 to his/her account before he/she started the operation. Medical personnel, who did not want to disclose their name, indicated that the University president protected the medical professors and that patients are not taken care of before their family or friends pay an amount directly to the doctor. The medical personnel indicated that the “assistants are working in the policlinic, clinic and stay on duty”.
The Diyarbakir Medical Chamber launched an investigation into the operation of the HIV patient in the University hospital and the negligence that occurred later.
Ç.K.’s husband M.K said, “Dr. Mustafa Kemal Çelen, who is responsible for clinic for infective diseases said he needed time to prepare the operation room. When everything was ready, doctors and their assistants said they could not do it. Three people walked toward my wife in the clinic and screamed at her.”
M.K further noted, “after my wife was accepted to the hospital, a tall doctor came to my wife and said,”I do not care if you or your child die. I will sit and laugh.” I was requested TL 1500 by the doctor that was going to perform the operation. But, after our situation was reported on the news, my wife was quickly discharged from the hospital, and they did not request any money from us. During our two-day stay, we were treated poorly. Noone cleaned the room or took out the trash in the room. My wife has nightmares of our experiences.”
The Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) on Saturday said 2,278 people were tortured and 11 abducted in Turkey during the first 11 months of 2017, Gazeteduvar reported.
Releasing a human rights report in Turkey under an ongoing state of emergency, the IHD and TİHV noted that human rights violations have reached worrying levels in Turkey. Recalling that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has issued 28 decree-laws since July 20, 2016, and that only five of them were approved on time by Parliament despite the fact that all legislation must be approved in accordance with the Turkish Constitution, the IHD and TİHV underlined that with its state of emergency decrees the government has created guarantees for state officials that they will not be prosecuted for violations committed during the period of emergency rule.
According to the report issued by the two rights organizations, security forces killed 36 people and wounded 12 in extrajudicial killings and by firing arbitrarily into a crowd on the pretext that they did not obey an order to stop, in the first 11 months of 2017.
A total of 695 people including 183 soldiers, 460 militants and 52 civilians were killed and 310 injured during clashes in Turkey.
Twenty-three people including six children were killed and 46 injured in accidents involving armored security vehicles.
A total of 570 people applied to the TİHV as victims of torture; 2,278 faced torture and maltreatment with 423 of such cases took place while in detention.
According to the İHD report, by May 30, 2017, 11 abduction or enforced disappearance cases had been reported in Turkey.
As of Nov. 1, there were 230,735 people in Turkish prisons, including 1,037 with health problems. The prison population numbered 178,089 in 2015 and 154,179 in 2014.
A Turkish media worker, who has been behind bars for 478 days, faces three consecutive life sentences and additional 15 years in jail on fabricated terrorism and coup plotting charges.
Zafer Özsoy, 44-year-old media professional who specializes in broadcasting network and satellite uplink services, is charged under Turkey’s abusive anti-terror laws when his company FİA was found to have provided infrastructure services to critical media outlets.
The company does not get involved in editorial policies of the clients that it provided services yet he stands accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish government and the Turkish Parliament without any evidence to back up any of the charges.
Özsoy started his media career at Cihan News Agency in 1995 right after he graduated from İstanbul University’s Radio and Television department. He had worked almost for 20 years at the same company’s various departments. Thanks to his experience and extensive network of contacts, he became one of the best media professional in his field of expertise.
Starting in 2014, Erdoğan’s government intensified pressure on Cihan news agency and its clients, forcing the company to downsize a year later to survive by shedding some of its assets and laying off workers.
Özsoy and his colleagues who worked together for years decided to establish their own production company FİA that would serve live streaming, broadcasting and digital video content for businesses. FİA purchased some of the technical equipment from the Cihan news agency under a deal that included negotiated fee for severance and compensation payments.
However, on March 7, 2016, Turkish government unlawfully seized both the Cihan news agency and FİA as part of the escalating crackdown on critical media outlets in Turkey. Özsoy and his partners were the first ones who were fired by the government appointed trustees who took over the management of these companies.
After working 20 years in media industry, Özsoy’s dream to run his own company with a selected team of his own was over but the worst was yet to come.
He was detained on July 27, 2016 at his home in İstanbul following detention warrants were issued for 47 journalists on dubious charges. He was formally arrested on August 4, 2016 over alleged links to FETÖ, a hoax terror organisation that was fabricated by the regime of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to defame the civic Gülen movement. He was sent to notorious Silivri Prison pending trial.
During the interrogation, Özsoy was asked why he continued to work for “Zaman Newspaper” when Turkey’s biggest corruption investigations incriminating cabinet ministers and President Erdoğan’s family members were made public at the end of 2013. Erdoğan, then prime minister, presented graft probes as a coup attempt against his government and accused critical media outlets, which covered the graft scandal, of being traitors and coup plotters against his government. Özsoy told his interrogators that he has never worked in Zaman newspaper.
The police even asked Özsoy whether he made any contribution to a piece written by Today’s Zaman former editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş who forewarned that a coup would be terrible for Turkey’s future, in an article Keneş wrote on July 8, 2016. Özsoy replied “I heard about the article for the first time here.” Keneş has also been indicted over absurd terrorism charges in several cases and remain at large. Ironically, this question was asked to all suspects who were detained along with Özsoy on July 27, 2016.
Özsoy appeared before judges for the first time in 14 months after he was arrested on September 18, 2017. The most difficult moment of the hearing was that he had to defend himself against the indictment that included no direct accusation on him. The public prosecutor mentioned his name twice in 64-page indictment. The first citation of him is recorded among the list of defendants in the first part of the indictment. The second and the last was in the list of suspects for whom the prosecutor demanded severe punishment for him. The prosecutor did not bother to present any evidence against the suspect whom he asked for sentencing that amounted to three life sentences and additional 15 years in prison.
As expected the court ruled for the continuation of his arrest pending next hearing which will be held on December 8, 2017.
Özsoy who is married with two children and known for his Formula-1 passion is looking forward to being free one day and reuniting with his loved ones.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of November 21, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.