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Turkey Rights Monitor - Issue 33

ARBITRARY DETENTION AND ARREST


Throughout the week, prosecutors ordered the detention of at least 643 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. In October 2020, a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) opinion said that widespread or systematic imprisonment of individuals with alleged links to the group may amount to crimes against humanity. Solidarity with OTHERS has compiled a detailed database to monitor the Gülen-linked mass detentions since a failed coup in July 2016.



February 2: Media reports revealed that 13 prisoners across the country were kept behind bars despite being eligible for parole, based on a prison bylaw enacted in December 2020.


ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES


No news has emerged of Yusuf Bilge Tunç and Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit, former public sector workers who were sacked from their jobs by decree-laws during the 2016-2018 state of emergency and who were reported missing respectively as of August 6, 2019 and December 29, 2020, in what appear to be the latest cases in a string of suspected enforced disappearance of government critics since 2016.


February 2: Chaldean and Assyrian associations in Europe, the United States, Australia and Iraq sent a joint letter to Turkey’s justice and interior ministers demanding a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Chaldean villager Hurmüz Diril and the murder of his wife Şimoni Diril.


February 4: The police in Ankara unlawfully detained in car and threatened Ronda Bat and Sultan Taş, two women who are members of the HDP youth council.


FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY


Throughout the week, the police in several provinces across the country blocked demonstrations held in protest of the appointment of a government loyalist as a rector to Boğaziçi University. According to Interior Ministry figures, over 500 people were detained while attending the protests. Videos of protests showed widespread police brutality against demonstrators while senior government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, verbally targeted the students and other demonstrators, calling them “terrorists.”


Violent images emerged from Boğaziçi University protests

February 1: An İstanbul court overseeing the retrial of the 2013 Gezi Park protests case imposed an international travel ban on the defendants.


February 2: The Antalya Governor’s Office issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for a period of 15 days.


February 2: The Van Governor’s Office issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for a period of 15 days. The ban has been kept in effect uninterruptedly since November 2016 through consecutive extensions.


February 2: The Kadıköy District Governor’s Office in İstanbul issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for a period of seven days.


February 4: The police in İstanbul blocked a pro-Kurdish demonstration, detaining 68 people, four of whom minors, including journalist Rojin Altay. The minors as well as Altay were released the next day.


February 5: Social media platform Twitter removed a tweet posted by far-right politician Devlet Bahçeli that referred to students protesting the appointment of a pro-government rector to Boğaziçi University as “poisonous snakes whose heads need to be crushed.” The tweet was replaced with a notice that said it was removed due to violating Twitter rules that ban threats of violence.


The far-right politician's tweet was removed for threatening with violence.

February 5: The Adana Governor’s Office issued a ban on all outdoor gatherings for a period of 15 days.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA


February 1: A Muş court sentenced journalist İdris Sayılğan to four years in prison on terrorism-related charges.


Journalist İdris Sayılğan was sentenced to four years on terror charges.

February 1: An İstanbul court ruled to arrest two students from Boğaziçi University on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values over a poster depicting religious images with LGBTI flags.


February 1: The Interior Ministry released a statement announcing that a total of 5,394 social media accounts were examined for alleged terrorist propaganda, 2,237 of which faced investigations that led to the detention of 118 people in January 2021.


February 2: The European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay €2,000 in non-pecuniary damages for violating the freedom of speech of Michael Dickinson, the late British academic and college artist, by convicting him of “insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was prime minister.”


February 3: An Ankara court sentenced journalist Alican Uludağ to 10 months in prison over his social media posts about former Ankara Chief Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman.


Journalist Alican Uludağ was sentenced to 10 months in prison.

February 3: The police in İstanbul detained eight students on charges of allegedly provoking the public over their social media messages about the protests related to Boğaziçi University.


February 3: An İstanbul court began the retrial of Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Önderoğlu is facing up to almost 15 years in prison for joining a campaign to support a newspaper that was shut down in 2016 for allegedly having links to outlawed Kurdish militants. Forensic scientist and prominent human rights defender Şebnem Korur-Fincancı and exiled journalist Ahmet Nesin are also standing trial in the case.


Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu

February 3: A Diyarbakır court ruled to block access to the website of Gazete Alınteri.


February 3: Reports revealed that on Dec. 17, an Ankara court ruled to block access to a column penned by journalist İsmail Saymaz.


February 3: A Diyarbakır court ruled to acquit Hülya Oruç, the wife of imprisoned journalist Aziz Oruç, of charges of “provoking hatred and enmity among public.” Oruç faced the charges over her social media commentary.


Hülya Oruç was acquitted after standing trial over her social media messages.

February 4: An Ankara court ordered opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan $14,000 in non-pecuniary damages due to his criticism of the privatization of a military tank and pallet factory.


February 4: An Artvin court ruled to block access to a news story about an NGO executive who was summoned for a questioning over his criticism of three senior government officials including a presidential aide.


February 4: The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) blocked access to 331 websites which were allegedly found by the Diyarbakır Gendarmerie Command to be engaged in spreading terrorist propaganda.


February 5: Journalist Osman Güdü was attacked after leaving his office in İstanbul. He was injured and hospitalized due to the attack.


KRT TV presenter Osman Güdü was attacked after leaving his office.

February 5: An Ankara prosecutor demanded up to 31 years, six months for journalists Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel on espionage charges for reporting on Turkey’s military involvement in Libya.


Journalists Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel are facing up to 31 years in prison on espionage charges.

February 5: Ankara prosecutors launched an investigation into independent deputy and journalist Ahmet Şık on charges of engaging in overt provocation to commit a crime, over his remarks in support of the weeks-long protests against the appointment of a government loyalist as the rector of Boğaziçi University.


Journalist Ahmet Şık is facing investigation over his vocal support in favor of Boğaziçi University protests.

February 5: An İstanbul court ruled to block access to news stories about a previous access ban imposed on news stories about the public tenders granted to a friend of Bilal Erdoğan, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son.


February 5: The Press in Arrest initiative published a monthly media freedom report which found that two journalists appeared before a judge every day and two were sentenced to a total of three years, 22 days in prison in January 2021.


February 7: The police in İzmir detained Beyza Buldağ, a university student who allegedly controlled a popular social media account focused on Boğaziçi University protests for “provoking hatred and enmity among public” and “inciting to committing crimes.” Buldağ appeared before a court which ruled for her arrest the same day.


University student Beyza Buldağ was detained and arrested over her social media activism.

February 7: The police in İstanbul detained local HDP youth member Muhammed Ünal over his social media messages. Ünal was arrested after appearing before a court.


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


February 5: An İstanbul court ruled to keep businessman and human rights defender Osman Kavala behind bars at the second hearing of a trial related to a failed 2016 coup. Kavala has been imprisoned since October 2017, despite a European Court of Human Rights order for his release.


JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE & RULE OF LAW


February 3: The Constitutional Court underlined in a reasoned decision about the case of opposition politician Enis Berberoğlu that lower courts do not have the right to defy its rulings, warning that attempts in that direction would result in criminal, administrative and legal liabilities. Lower courts previously refused to enforce Constitutional Court rulings ordering Berberoğlu’s retrial.


February 4: The İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine said that Ali Yılmaz, a paralyzed inmate with several health problems, was “fit to remain in prison,” despite acknowledging in its report that they were unaware of conditions in the prison.


February 5: An İstanbul court ruled to keep businessman and human rights defender Osman Kavala behind bars at the second hearing of a trial related to a failed 2016 coup. Kavala has been imprisoned since October 2017, despite a European Court of Human Rights order for his release.


KURDISH MINORITY


February 1: A Muş court sentenced journalist İdris Sayılğan to four years in prison on terrorism-related charges. Sayılğan stood trial over his work for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency.


February 1: The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) asked Turkey to provide its defense for the pre-trial detention of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş in connection to street protests in the country’s Southeast in 2014.


February 2: The police in İstanbul reportedly coerced local HDP members Sinan Alabakır and Gülay Alabukan to become an informant for the state during their questioning. The two were detained a week before.


February 3: The police in six provinces detained nine members and executives of the HDP as part of an operation ordered by Ankara prosecutors. Two of the detainees were arrested after appearing before a court while seven were released to house arrest.


February 3: A Diyarbakır court sentenced local politician Garip Kandemir to six months, three years in prison on terrorism-related charges.


February 4: The police in Ankara unlawfully detained in car and threatened Ronda Bat and Sultan Taş, two women who are members of the HDP youth council.


February 4: The police in İstanbul blocked a pro-Kurdish demonstration, detaining 68 people, four of whom minors, including journalist Rojin Altay. The minors as well as Altay were released the next day.


February 7: The police in İstanbul detained local HDP youth member Muhammed Ünal over his social media messages. Ünal was arrested after appearing before a court.


MILITARY OPERATIONS ABROAD


February 3: Human Rights Watch condemned the illegal transfer to Turkey of more than 60 Syrians arrested by Turkey and its local proxies in Syria’s northeast in 2019, on account of their alleged links to Kurdish militia in the region that Turkey views as “terrorists.”


MISTREATMENT OF CITIZENS ABROAD


February 4: Freedom House published a report on global transnational repression, revealing the intensity, geographic reach and suddenness of the Turkish government’s campaign targeting dissidents abroad, noting that Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions from host states since 2014.


OTHER MINORITIES


February 1: An İstanbul court ruled to arrest two students from Boğaziçi University on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values over a poster depicting religious images with LGBTI flags.


February 2: Chaldean and Assyrian associations in Europe, the United States, Australia and Iraq sent a joint letter to Turkey’s justice and interior ministers demanding a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Chaldean villager Hurmüz Diril and the murder of his wife Şimoni Diril.


February 2: Social media platform Twitter flagged a tweet posted by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that referred to LGBTI people as “perverts.”


February 4: Melih Bulu, the controversial rector of Boğaziçi University announced the suspension of the university’s LGBTI club over a poster that allegedly disrespected religious images.


PRISON CONDITIONS


February 2: Media reports revealed that 44-year-old inmate Kahraman Sezer, who was being held at a Hatay prison, died of Covid-19 behind bars.


REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS


February 5: The Association for Migration Research released a report titled “Ghosts of İstanbul: Afghans at the Margins of Precarity,” examining the conditions of Turkey’s Afghan migrants.


TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT


February 1: A Geneva-based association filed an appeal with the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) concerning the alleged torture of a soldier by the Ankara police.


February 2: The guards at a Malatya prison assaulted prisoners who refused to undergo strip-searches.


February 2: Servet Erdil, a former public sector worker, revealed in an interview the details of the brutal treatment of detainees at the Ankara police headquarters, which he witnessed during his 10-day detention in December 2016.


Servet Erdil

February 5: The guards at a Kahramanmaraş prison reportedly assaulted inmates Sedat Karak, Veysi Altan, Servan Sertkaya, Orhan Doru and İhsan Oran.


February 5: Two women who were detained in İzmir while attending protests against the appointment of a pro-government rector to Boğaziçi University revealed that they were subjected to strip-searches during their detention.


WOMEN’S RIGHTS


February 3: A monthly gender-based violence report found that men killed at least 22 women and inflicted violence on 60 in January 2021.

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OTHERS AISBL | BELGIUM