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Turkey Rights Monitor - Issue 77

ARBITRARY DETENTION AND ARREST


Throughout the week, prosecutors ordered the detention of at least 153 people over 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.



December 7: The authorities arrested and sent to prison Şükrü İpek, a former teacher convicted on terrorism charges for his alleged links to the Gülen movement, leaving his wife, who has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) without care.


December 8: Mehmet Emin Özkan, an ailing 83-year-old prisoner, has tested positive for Covid-19. Özkan is suffering from Alzheimer, aneurysm, blood pressure problems and goiter as well as kidney and intestinal disorders. The authorities have previously ignored repeated requests for his release.


Mehmet Emin Özkan

December 9: The authorities did not release Bekir Bayram, a 72-year-old man convicted for alleged links to the Gülen movement who suffers from congestive heart failure. The reports said that Bayram was scheduled to undergo heart surgery in a few days.


Bekir Bayram

December 10: Hülya Durmuş, a 41-year-old woman suffering from stage four lymphoma, said in a letter she posted on social media that she has been left to take care of her disabled son after the jailing of her spouse for alleged links to the Gülen movement.


Hülya Durmuş and her family

ARBITRARY DEPRIVATION OF LIFE


December 9: Garibe Gezer, an inmate who previously alleged that she was beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards in Kocaeli, was found dead in her cell. Media reports indicated that lawyers were not present at the crime scene investigation conducted in the cell and they were not presented with the report.


Garibe Gezer

ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES


No news has emerged of Yusuf Bilge Tunç, a former public sector worker who was sacked from his job by a decree-law during the 2016-2018 state of emergency and who was reported missing as of August 6, 2019 in what appears to be one of the latest cases in a string of suspected enforced disappearance of government critics since 2016.


December 9: The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and the Human Rights Association (İHD) reported that 17 people were abducted in Turkey in the first 11 months of 2021 and that 11 of them were subjected to torture or ill-treatment during their disappearance.


FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION


December 6: An İstanbul prosecutor indicted three waste workers who staged protests after their depots were raided by the police, seeking up to 17 years in prison for each.


December 7: The police in İstanbul intervened in a demonstration to demand the release of a sick prisoner, detaining three people.


December 9: The government-appointed rector of Boğaziçi University filed criminal complaints against 16 academics who participated in a daily protest held in the campus against his appointment.


December 10: A district governor’s office in Antalya banned a rally organized by labor unions to protest high cost of living.


December 11: An İstanbul prosecutor indicted 14 university students who staged demonstrations against the government-appointed rector of Boğaziçi University, seeking jail terms on four different charges.


December 11: The police in Şırnak detained Serhat Küçük, an executive for an association established for solidarity with people who have lost family members in the armed conflict in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast.


December 12: A demonstration to be held in Ankara by a youth movement to protest high costs of living was met with police brutality. The police prevented buses carrying protesters from İzmir and İstanbul from entering Ankara, injuring at least 10 people. The police also intervened in the protest in the city, briefly detaining at least 90 people.


FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA


December 6: An Ankara prosecutor indicted 103 retired admirals, seeking prison sentences of up to 12 years for each. The admirals are charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, due to a joint declaration in which they criticized government plans to review an international treaty about the use of the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.


December 7: The European Court of Human Rights faulted Turkey for violating the right to freedom of expression of a former teacher, stating that public comments in favor of the Gülen movement before a coup attempt in July 2016 do not constitute a crime.


December 7: A member of the far-right MHP in Konya physically assaulted and threatened with death local journalist Özcan Saraç. The incident took place after Saraç published an exposé about a MHP executive.


December 7: İstanbul prosecutors indicted journalists Doğan Ergün and İzel Sezer, seeking up to 11 years, four months in prison on a number of charges for reporting on bribery allegations implicating the president.


Journalists İzel Sezer and Doğan Ergün

December 7: An Aydın court ruled to block access to three news reports on alleged corruption involving an online portfolio app.


December 8: A Diyarbakır court sentenced journalist Gülşen Koçuk to one year, 10 months, 15 days in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda on social media.


December 8: The police in Antalya briefly detained journalist Hazar Dost who was in the province to follow up on news.


Journalist Hazar Dost

December 9: Reports revealed that Hüseyin Gökoğlu, a Kurdish politician whose house was violently raided by the police without a warrant last week, was detained for a questioning on accusations of insulting the president.


December 9: The police in Malatya detained two people on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda on social media.


December 9: The authorities blocked access to three news reports on bribery allegations implicating several high-ranking police chiefs.


December 10: İstanbul prosecutors indicted journalist Hasan Cemal, seeking up to eight years in prison on charges of insulting the president on social media.


Journalist Hasan Cemal

December 10: The police in Van briefly detained newspaper distributor Özgür Ali Ağaoğlu without a detention warrant, confiscating some 200 copies of Yeni Yaşam and Xwebûn newspapers.


December 10: The police in Mersin detained 11 people for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda during Newroz celebrations.


December 10: A Kayseri court ruled to block access to an online article published by a press freedom monitor to report on a previous access ban on news reports about a local civil servant allegedly beaten up for not standing up in front of a district governor.


December 11: The police in Zonguldak detained a person for throwing a photo of the president to the ground. Later in the same day, the detainee was arrested by a court on charges of insulting the president.


December 11: Diyarbakır prosecutors indicted former Kars mayor Ayhan Bilgen on charges of insulting the president.


Kurdish politician Ayhan Bilgen

December 11: An Antalya court ruled to block access to three news reports on a murder that took place in a student dormitory run by a religious group.


December 12: The police detained three popular YouTubers known for their political street interviews.


HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS


December 10: An İstanbul court rejected an appeal for the release of civil society leader Osman Kavala, who has been held behind bars on a series of shifting charges since 2017 despite a European Court of Human Rights order. The decision came two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the media that Turkey will continue to ignore European decisions on Kavala, possibly referring to a recent interim resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to bring infringement proceedings against Ankara.


JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE & RULE OF LAW


December 10: An İstanbul court rejected an appeal for the release of civil society leader Osman Kavala, who has been held behind bars on a series of shifting charges since 2017 despite a European Court of Human Rights order. The decision came two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the media that Turkey will continue to ignore European decisions on Kavala, possibly referring to a recent interim resolution by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to bring infringement proceedings against Ankara.


December 10: A new report released by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative found that Turkish authorities have prosecuted more than 1,600 attorneys and arrested 615 of them on terrorism charges since a failed coup in 2016.


December 11: Lawyer Sümeyra Bulduk announced that she was subjected to mistreatment during a visit to her clients in a Tekirdağ prison. Bulduk represents two former police chiefs who have been imprisoned since 2014 due to their role in graft probes in 2013 that implicated high-level government officials.


KURDISH MINORITY


December 7: Prosecutors indicted Osman Şiban on terrorism-related charges. Last year, Şiban was allegedly thrown from a military helicopter after being detained by gendarmes and was severely injured.


December 7: A Diyarbakır court ruled to acquit former HDP deputy Levent Tüzel who has stood trial as part of an investigation into the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), the umbrella organization of the Kurdish political movement.


December 8: The police in Adana briefly detained former HDP deputy Mehmet Ali Aslan.


Kurdish politician Mehmet Ali Aslan

December 8: The police in Şırnak detained local HDP members and executives Abdullah Kaçmaz, Mehmet Miraç Dinç and Sümeyye Gök.


December 8: A Diyarbakır court sentenced journalist Gülşen Koçuk to one year, 10 months, 15 days in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda on social media. Koçuk is a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Jinnews website.


December 9: Reports revealed that Hüseyin Gökoğlu, a Kurdish politician whose house was violently raided by the police without a warrant last week, was detained for a questioning on accusations of insulting the president.


December 10: The police in Van briefly detained newspaper distributor Özgür Ali Ağaoğlu without a detention warrant, confiscating some 200 copies of Yeni Yaşam and Xwebûn newspapers.


December 10: The police in Mersin detained 11 people for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda during Newroz celebrations.


December 11: Diyarbakır prosecutors indicted former Kars mayor Ayhan Bilgen on charges of insulting the president.


December 11: The police in Şırnak raided a district headquarters of the HDP, detaining 26 people including the party’s district executive Naim İned.


PRISON CONDITIONS


December 7: Nusret Muğla, an ailing 84-year-old man serving a prison sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, said his prison cell did not have proper heating or basic necessities in a telephone call to his family.


Nusret Muğla

TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT


December 6: Media reports revealed that a Diyarbakır prison has been keeping an inmate named Aziz Tufan in a one-person cell for more than two months.


December 9: A police officer and a neighborhood watchman in Aydın were seen beating up a young man and threatening to kill him in a video that circulated on Turkish social media.


December 9: Garibe Gezer, an inmate who previously alleged that she was beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards in Kocaeli, was found dead in her cell.


December 9: Media reports indicated that a prisoner named Kadri Katar was mistreated during an involuntary prison transfer from Şırnak to Erzurum. The reports also said that the prison authorities launched a disciplinary investigation into Katar and imposed a one-month ban on visitation rights.


December 9: The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and the Human Rights Association (İHD) reported that 415 people were tortured in prisons and detention centers in the first 11 months of 2021.


December 10: The police in Şırnak physically assaulted a person who reacted to an armored police vehicle being parked in front of his shop.


December 11: Lawyer Sümeyra Bulduk announced that she was subjected to mistreatment during a visit to her clients in a Tekirdağ prison. Bulduk represents two former police chiefs who have been imprisoned since 2014 due to their role in graft probes in 2013 that implicated high-level government officials.


WOMEN’S RIGHTS


December 9: An Ankara prosecutor requested a reduced sentence for Fedai Varan, a man who slit his ex-wife’s throat in broad daylight in 2019, citing “good behavior” and “provocation.”