Prison (again) for a Man of Peace in Turkey

February 29, 2012

Halil Savda (Photo Vedat Yıldız )

Halil Savda is in prison again.  On February 24, he was arrested in the town of Doğubeyazit, in Eastern Turkey, and sentenced to serve a hundred-day prison sentence.  His crime was to merely speak publicly in support of conscientious objectors.  This, according to Turkish law, constitutes “alienating the public from military service” and is a crime under Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code.

This is not the first time that Halil has been imprisoned for his beliefs (a video on him, produced by Amnesty last year, is available here).   Over a five year period, he was imprisoned, often under harsh conditions, for a total of seventeen months for refusing to serve in the military (Turkey, along with Azerbaijan, is one of only two countries within the Council of Europe that does not respect the rights of conscientious objectors).

In 2008, the military, unwilling to accept the right of Turkish citizens to have moral objections to military service but unable to break Halil’s will, finally declared him “unfit for military service” so they would be spared the continued embarrassment of his resistance.

But Halil has continued to speak out for the rights of others, whether in Turkey or elsewhere, to conscientiously object.  And so the court cases have continued.  The right to refuse military service on the basis of one’s beliefs is a basic human right, which Turkey has refused to accept.  Only last year, Turkey was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights for denying Yunus Erçep the right to an alternative to military service.  Moreover, Article 318 is a direct attack on the basic right of Freedom of Expression and is in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

Amnesty International considers Halil Savda a prisoner of conscience, detained for exercising his freedom of expression.   Please join us in our Urgent Action to support Halil!

If you are interested in the issue of Human Rights in Turkey, consider joining us on our Turkey Regional Action Network on Facebook.