Turkey: Time to remove the shackles on freedom

The reforms fail to bring national law in line with international human rights standards © REUTERS/Umit Bektas
March 27, 2013

Turkey: Time to remove the shackles on freedom

Lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı was prosecuted in February 2010 for calling for justice for the deaths of prisoners in a 2000 prison operation when the military invaded twenty prisons across the country to end a prolonged hunger strike. In January 2013 in a separate indictment, Selçuk Kozağaçlı was charged with membership of the banned leftist group, the Revolutionary Peoples' Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). As of February 2013 he remained in pre-trial detention.

In April 2012 Fazıl Say, a pianist of international renown, was prosecuted for tweets he made mocking religious individuals and Islamic conceptions of heaven. As of February 2013, there had been two court hearings; a third is scheduled for 15 April.

Investigative journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, are currently being prosecuted on charges of supporting the activities of Ergenekon, an alleged criminal network engaged in a plot to violently overthrow the government for "knowingly and willingly supporting a terrorist organization". The evidence against Ahmet Şık is based largely on his book "The imam's army", which alleges the existence of a network within state institutions and civil society made up of followers of the Turkish Islamic scholar in exile, Fetullah Gülen, a supporter of the Justice and Development party (AKP) government. The evidence against Nedim Şener consists of no more than written works and tapped telephone conversations with defendants in the Ergenekon case about matters not related to any crimes.

In January 2009 Vedat Kurşun, editor and owner of Azadiya Welat, Turkey's only Kurdish language newspaper was convicted on multiple counts for "committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization" and for "Making propaganda for a terrorist organization" to a total of 166 years and six months. Following appeal he was acquitted of the first offence and sentenced to 10 years and 6 months imprisonment for "Making propaganda for a terrorist organization."

62 year-old Sultani Acıbuca, member of a group of mothers who have lost or had sons imprisoned as part of the conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK, was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization for calling for peace and an end to the conflict.