PEN Norway and Civic Space Studies Association ask for international awareness on the state violence and oppressive practices the students are facing at Boğaziçi University.
The Turkish government has been targeting higher education as a democratic space for free expression and the right to assembly for years, increasingly since 2016. Boğaziçi University was one of the few institutions that managed to preserve its democratic environment in this atmosphere.
However, on January 1st, 2021; the President of Turkey appointed Melih Bulu as the new rector of the university. It is the first time since the military regime in the 1980s that a rector is appointed without having any connections to the university. While not having any connections to the university, the new trustee rector has organic ties to the ruling party: he was a parliamentary candidate of the party during the 2015 elections. Given the facts, this is an obvious display of overreaching executive power that targets yet another democratic institution and core educational values.
For ten days, students and staff have been protesting against this attack on academic freedom.
We stand with the protesters, and ask the international community to join us in calling for:
The detained protesters should be immediately released.
All warrants should be lifted, and the practice of detentions should cease against protesters.
All investigations concerning the protests should be dropped.
The protesters must be allowed to practice their constitutional rights to assembly and association in peace along with their right to protest.
All violent offences against protesters should be investigated and prosecuted.
Universities are core to democratic values and freedom of expression: All oppressive practices against universities should be ceased.
THE BILL FOR THE PREVENTION OF THE FINANCING OF THE PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
• “Bill for the Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of
Weapons of Mass Destruction” is the first item in the agenda of
the 24 December 2020 Plenary Session of The Grand National
Assembly of Turkey [GNAT].
• The bill was deliberated at the Justice Committee of GNAT on 16 December 2020.
• According to the Justice Committee reasoning, the bill aims to catch up with the international standards in the fight against the financing of terrorism and laundering offences considering the 2019 report of the Financial Action Task Force-FATF and the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
• Despite the reasoning, only the first six articles focus on this
issue. The remaining 35 articles have no direct relation with
the general reasoning and many of them amend significant
articles of the Law of Association.
How the bill affects civil society in Turkey?
• The bill brings several additions and amendments to 5253 “Law On Associations”. Law no. 5253 concerns civil society institutions structured as non-profit associations and foundations.
• With the new formulation, the regulation will be applicable to the representatives and branches of associations, federations, confederations, as well as Turkey offices of foreign-based organizations.
• The proposed bill makes an addition to Article 3 of Law No: 5253 and defines new limitations concerning the duties of the members of association.
• If a person is under investigation for crimes within the scope of the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism as well as other crimes related to the drug or human trafficking within the Turkish Penal Code s/he will not be able to be actively engaged in activities of the association besides participating in the general assembly.
• The bill disallows individuals who have been previously sentenced for any of the above-mentioned crimes to engaged in activities of any association besides participating in the general assembly. situation, It removes the period of limitation and the benefits of a remission of a punishment.
• The bill allows The Minister of Interior to start a process to suspend all activities of an association on grounds that a court case was filed against an individual.
• The bill allows an appointee to be appointed the administration of the organization.
• Article 13 of the bill increases the regularity and authority of audit and inspection processes. The extended authority includes Turkey offices of associations based abroad. Audits currently carried out upon a complaint will become regular.
• In cases where acts defined by the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism are detected, assets of associations may be frozen with a Presidential decree.
In Turkey it is difficult to estimate the number of human rights defenders, journalist, academics etc. who are accused to be a member of a terrorist organization or making terrorism propaganda or any offences under the scope of the Anti-Terror Law.
The constitutional court and ECtHR have thousand of applications related to this article. There is no doubt that the use of this law exceeds its main purpose, and the law is used to create pressure on civil society and journalists.
The upcoming bill will greatly increase the extent of this misuse, allowing the executive branch to literally shut organizations down and freeze their funds at will.
While the bill has not passed yet, there is little hope that it will be rejected given previous experiences. The next step would naturally be a Constitutional Court application. We would hope that the Constitutional Court would act in accordance with fundamental human rights.
Please See: Joint StatementbyHuman Rights Association (İHD), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD), Rights Initiative Association (HİD), Citizens Assembly (YD), Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (ESHİD), Amnesty International Turkey
Statement signed by 442 (and rising) organizations [Turkish link for the list of signatories].
Civil society leader Kavala to remain as political hostage in prison until February 2021.
PEN Norway’s Court Reporter Writes:
Press attention was high today at the Cağlayan Palace of Justice, Istanbul where many representatives of civil society, diplomatic missions and political parties gathered for the first hearing in a new case against imprisoned human rights defender, Osman Kavala. There were hints of a judicial reform from the government during the past month which in turn raised the expectations for Kavala’s release and possible acquittal on all charges.
The new indictment charges Kavala with “obtaining state information that needs to remain confidential for political and military espionage purposes” and «attempting to overthrow Constitutional order» with reference to the 2016 coup-attempt.
The hearing started precisely on 13:30 as planned. Due to pandemic restrictions, only a few people were allowed into the courtroom: relatives, lawyers and very few press members. Kavala, being still detained in Silivri prison, two hours from Istanbul, attended the case over SEGBIS, the judicial conferencing system.
Those members of the press, diplomats, and legal observers who were not permitted to enter the court room were let through the security gate but had to watch the proceeding through the open doors from the inner hallway, inevitably forming a crowd around the door. Those who did not have press, diplomatic or legal credentials were not allowed in through the security gate.
The hearing started with Kavala’s statement. He criticized the fact that evidence from the previous ‘Gezi’ trial had been recycled in this new case. He pointed out that the indictment failed to prove his connections to Henri Barkey and had no factual basis or concrete evidence.
“The prosecution has intentionally confounded the present activities of civil society organizations that serve to contribute to democracy with the political and ideological activities undertaken during the Cold War Era.” Kavala said. He ended his statement with these words: “I hope this indictment, which includes the most extreme examples of unfounded, non-substantiated, and illogical charges leading to our citizens’ deprivation of their freedom, will be the last one of its kind.”
The full transcript of his statement has been published on the Free Osman Kavala Campaign website.
Witnesses and Lawyers
Kavala’s statement was followed by statements of 6 witnesses and the defense statements of Kavala’s lawyers: Murat Deha Boduroğlu, Köksal Bayraktar, Deniz Tolga Aytöre. The indictment attempted to connect Kavala and Barkey and accused Kavala of being in the same hotel with Barkey on 15 July 2016 (on the day of the coup attempt), where a meeting took place. All witnesses denied the presence of Kavala. One of the witnesses stated that Barkey knew of the coup-attempt in advance.
Kavala’s lawyers pointed out the lack of evidence in the indictment and that no witness had provided extra evidence connecting Kavala to Barkey. Kavala has been unlawfully imprisoned for 38 months. After the judge stated that Kavala “was not imprisoned for this case”, Lawyer Köksal Bayraktar reminded the decision of the European Court of Human Rights statement that identifies his imprisonment as a continuation of the original detention. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey should immediately end Kavala’s detention on December 10, 2019. This ruling has been ignored now by multiple judicial panels in their hearings.
Swift decision for continuing detention
After the statements and a 15-minute-long break, the prosecutor requested Leyla Alaton to be ready as witness for the next hearing along with other previously decided witnesses and continuation of Kavala’s imprisonment. Then, the court briefly adjourned again before ruling for the continued imprisonment of Kavala and declared that the next hearing will be held on 5 February 2021, 13:30.
While the Turkish Courts have taught us to keep hopes low on many occasions, this ruling comes as a disappointment for all of those demanding Kavala’s release. The ruling directly ignores resolutions from the European Court of Human Rights, comes despite the new political discourse concerning judicial reform, against the president’s own message on 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day stating that: “We carried our country to a much higher level in the field of human rights compared to 18 years ago…”
As Sezgin Tanrıkulu (MP, human rights activist and lawyer) stated right after today’s hearing: “Osman Kavala is still detained unlawfully, despite the European Court of Human Rights resolution, and 3 resolutions from the Council of Ministers” He continues: “This case is a symbolic case concerning the judiciary reform. Despite the binding resolutions by the European Court of Human Rights, Kavala has not been released yet. So “judicial reform” means nothing unless the mentality changes first.”
«Kavala’s situation has even gone beyond legal harassment, It has become legal torture. There isn’t enough evidence to imprison Kavala even for 1 day, let alone convicting him.» says Sinan Gökçen. (Civil Rights Defenders-Turkey, Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders)
The next hearing will take place on February 5th, 2021.
PEN Norway’s reaction to today’s decision
Despite mounting evidence that impartiality and independence of the judiciary in Turkey’s High Criminal Courts is a thing of the past, we at PEN Norway hoped again today, as we did this time last year, that human rights activist Osman Kavala would be released from his illegal detention in Silivri prison and reunited with his freedom.
Although we monitor, report and collate data on the deteriorating state of the rule of law in Turkey we still raise our hopes for justice when an innocent man becomes the subject of such a flimsy legal case. Our hopes and those of Osman Bey’s family, legal team, and supporters worldwide that justice would finally prevail were yet again dashed by the judicial panel of Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court when they ruled to keep Kavala in prison today and to hold the next hearing in February 2021.
The latest outright attack on the judicial system in Turkey can be seen to have begun by the Constitutional changes of 2017 that gave power to the President and Ministry of Justice to appoint every single member of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, thus giving the executive indirect power in the appointment of every judge and prosecutor in the country.
PEN Norway has attended every hearing in the bogus cases against Kavala since 2018. For those observers who were shocked at the baseless nature of the Gezi trial and its accompanying tome of irrelevance that passed for an indictment, this new trial can only further confirm that the executive in Turkey has no intention of permitting Kavala or his new co-defendant Barkey to have a fair trial.
In a fair trial, the presentation of the utterly evidence-free indictment against Kavala and Barkey would cause a judicial panel to rule for dismissal of the case.
In our Indictment Project – Turkey 2020 we have so far reported on the standards of 8 indictments in recent cases in Turkey. Not one of those indictments meets Turkish or international standards. The crisis in the judiciary in Turkey is so great, that only a divorce of the executive from the judiciary and assurance to all judges that they will not be prosecuted for making judgements that may displease the President will suffice to restore faith in this crippled judicial system. The fact that the highest levels of the executive wish to influence trials is not supposition, it can be heard in the speeches of the President on a regular basis. Last week Erdoğan stated that he ‘did not expect’ the justice system in Turkey to sanction or support the release of opposition leader Demirtaş. It is time that the Council of Europe chastised Turkey strongly for its willful departure from the tenets of the European Convention on Human Rights.
We report in full on the new Kavala indictment on Tuesday 22, December on our website.
The report by Kevin Dent QC confirms our fears over the lack of evidence against defendants:
‘ It is noticeable that, notwithstanding the seriousness of the allegations, no serious attempt has been made in the indictment to link Osman Kavala to any activity or role in either espionage or the attempted coup. Consequently, given the lack of coherent evidence, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the indictment is a piece of political theatre rather than a legal instrument and one designed to perpetuate the detention of Osman Kavala.’
Kevin Dent, QC. Turkey v Kavala & Barkey Indictment Report.
We at PEN Norway call for an urgent investigation by Turkey’s Ministry of Justice into these pretences of trials that make little effort to convince anyone the intention of judicial panels to uphold the law. We call for the immediate release of Kavala and the dropping of all bogus charges against him. We call for Turkey to stop wilfully violating Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights and to free Osman Kavala.
Do the indictments in the Gezi Park trial, Cumhuriyet trial or against Ahmet Altan meet international legal standards?
Working with lawyers and judges from all over Europe, PEN Norway has commissioned a series of reports into indictments that have taken place during the past 5 years in cases against the media, human rights activists and civil society in Turkey.
– Following our trial observations of the past few years, we were deeply concerned at the standard of indictment-writing in a large number of cases, specifically such trials as that of Gezi Park – Osman Kavala et al – and the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. The length of these indictments, at 657 and 256 pages respectively, led us to have concerns that defendants’ cases were being held up for a considerable time whilst these indictments were being written. In Osman Kavala’s case as long as 14 months, says PEN Norway’s Turkey Adviser and project lead Caroline Stockford.
12 indictment cases
PEN Norway has since Spring 2020 brought together legal experts from five different countries, including Norway, Austria and the United Kingdom, as well as academics and experts on the ground in Turkey to study indictments in 12 cases. PEN Norway has further commissioned articles on the history of and current state of the judicial system in Turkey as well as the mapping of the legal appeals process.
– The study asks whether these indictments meet Turkish and international standards. We have brought on a team of excellent international lawyers and scholars with great knowledge of the law and Turkish society to examine 12 recent indictments, says Caroline Stockford.
The project will culminate in a final report which will put forward recommendations for streamlining and improving the standard of indictments in Turkey.
– This project is a unique opportunity to thoroughly look at the Turkish legal practice today. Legal organizations in and outside of Turkey have been increasingly worried about the judicial system for years. The crackdown on free speech in Turkey in the past few years has been a great cause for concern, General Secretary of PEN Norway, Hege Newth says.
– We are eager to hear the findings from our experts on whether these indictments meet a satisfying standard, and hope the recommendations from the project will be listened to, says Newth.
The reports will be published weekly from mid-September until the end of the year, beginning with a report on the case of journalist Nedim Türfent, now serving a prison sentence of 8 years, 9 months over one newspaper article. Forthcoming reports are on the indictments of Osman Kavala and Defendants in the Gezi Park trial, Deniz Yücel, the Cumhuriyet case, Pelin Ünker, Çiğdem Toker and the Büyükada indictment.
Global launch event
On September 30, 2020 PEN Norway will hold the global launch of our Turkey Indictment Project 2020. At this event, we have invited two panels of distinguished experts from Europe and Turkey to discuss the current crisis in the rule of law and avenues for practical and effective advocacy to mitigate the further erosion of the rule of law and profession of defense lawyers in Turkey.
For more information on our global launch event, which will feature two panels of experts discussing the current state of Turkey’s judicial system and the role and future of advocacy in Turkey and Europe, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register here for our global launch by emailing your name and company name to email@example.com. Invitees will be capped at 100 participants.
The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Norveç PEN Türkiye İddianame Projesi başlıyor
30 Eylül’de gerçekleşecek Uluslararası açılış panelimize buradan kayıt olabilirsiniz.
Gezi Parkı davası, Cumhuriyet davası veya Ahmet Altan hakkındaki davada iddianameler uluslararası standartlara uyuyor mu?
Norveç PEN, Avrupa’dan avukatlar ve yargıçların bulunduğu bir ekiple çalışarak, son beş yılda Türkiye’de basın, insan hakları aktivistleri ve sivil toplum davalarındaki iddianameleri inceleyen bir rapor dizisi başlattı.
– Norveç PEN Türkiye danışmanı ve proje lideri olan Caroline Stockford’un belirttiği gibi: Geçtiğimiz yıllardaki dava gözlem deneyimlerimiz, birçok davadaki iddianame yazımıyla standartlarıyla ilgili derin bir endişeye yol açtı. Özellikle Gezi Parkı (Osman Kavala ve diğerleri) ve Cumhuriyet Gazetesi davalarında iddianame uzunluklarının sırasıyla 657 ve 256 olması, iddianamelerin hazırlanış süresinde tutuklu kalanlarla ilgili kaygılarımızı arttırıyor. Osman kavala örneğinde bu süre 14 aya kadar uzadı.
Norveç PEN, 2020 ilkbaharından bu yana Norveç, Birleşik Krallık, Avusturya gibi farklı ülkelerden hukuk uzmanlarının yanı sıra, Türkiye’den akademisyenler ve uzmanların bulunduğu bir ekibi bir araya getirdi. Bu ekiple 12 davanın iddianamelerinin incelemesiyle birlikte, Türkiye’deki yargı teşkilatı ve tarihiyle ilgili makaleler de hazırlıyoruz.
Bu proje kapsamında, son aşamada genel bir rapor hazırlanarak Türkiye’de iddianame standartlarıyla ilgili geliştirme önerileri getirilecek.
Norveç PEN genel sekreteri, Hege Newth’ın sözleriyle:bu proje Türkiye’deki hukuk uygulamalarının detaylarına odaklanmak için eşsiz bir olanak sağlıyor. Türkiye içinde ve dışında bulunan hukuk kurumlarının yıllardır değişen yargı sistemiyle ilgili endişesi giderek artıyor. Türkiye’de son yıllarda ifade özgürlüğüne yönelik baskı, önemli bir endişe kaynağı. Ekibimizdeki uzmanların bu iddianamelerin standartlara uyumuyla ilgili bulgularını paylaşmak için sabırsızlanıyoruz ve sonunda getirilecek iyileştirme önerilerine kulak verileceğini umuyoruz.
Raporlar Eylül ayından başlayarak 2020 yılının sonuna kadar haftalık olarak yayınlanacak. İlk rapor, yazdığı bir makale yüzünden 8 yıl 9 aylık mahkumiyeti sürmekte olan gazeteci Nedim Türfent’in davası hakkında. İlerleyen raporlarda Gezi Parkı davası, Cumhuriyet, Pelin Ünker, Çiğdem Toker, Büyükada gibi davaların iddianameleri ele alınacak.
30 Eylül 2020’de, Norveç PEN, Türkiye İddianame Projesini tanıtmak amacıyla uluslararsı bir etkinlik düzenliyor. Bu etkinlik Avrupa ve Türkiye’den önde gelen uzmanların, hukukun üstünlüğüyle ilgili konuları tartıştığı 2 panel şeklinde gerçekleşecek. Hukukun üstünlüğü ile ilgili olumsuzlukların daha da derinleşmesinin önüne geçmek için pratik yollar geliştirilmeye çalışacak.
Etkinlikle ilgili daha fazla bilgi için bizimle şu e-mail adresinden irtibata geçebilirsiniz: firstname.lastname@example.org
PEN Norway and 38 civil society organisations deplore decision to block Özgürüz and call for an end to the harassment of Can Dündar.
19 June 2020 – PEN Norway and 38 civil society organisations deplore the decision by a Turkish court to ban access to Germany-based online radio station Özgürüz (‘We Are Free’), which is headed by Can Dündar. We call on the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision, to stop the harassment of Dündar and to reform the country’s laws and judicial practice so that internet freedom can be guaranteed.
On 16 June, the Ankara 4th Criminal Court of the Peace banned access to the station and its website ozguruz20.org at the request of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (Radyo ve Televizyon Üst Kurulu, RTÜK), which apparently argued that the station was streaming radio illegally and reporting and streaming content against Turkey. RTÜK in an unofficial statement calls Dündar a ‘fugitive FETÖ suspect’ and refers to his trial over disclosing state documents and information and obtaining secret information for the purpose of espionage, although the latter charge was dismissed.
Dündar, a former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, said in response: ‘The Government, especially in the recent period, has taken control of information sources like the Turkish Statistical Institute and a huge portion of the news media; however it could not oversee media organisations like Özgürüz Radyo streaming freely from exile.’ He also announced that the radio will continue to broadcast on ozguruz21.org.
Internet freedom in Turkey is under sustained attack from the government and the routine unlawful blocking of websites, where this is not strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate objective, encroaches on the already limited space for independent media and dissenting voices.
Dündar has been the victim of judicial harassment by the Turkish authorities since 2015, with several criminal procedures on-going. He was detained between 26 November 2015 and 26 February 2016, and has been living in exile in Germany since December 2016. Özgürüz has been repeatedly blocked by the Turkish authorities in the past, including in January 2017, before it had started publishing news.
Association of European Journalists English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Freedom House
Independent Chinese PEN Centre
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) International Press Institute (IPI)
Irish PEN / Freedom to Write Campaign
Japan PEN Club
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) PEN Canada
PEN Centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina
PEN Suisse Romand
San Miguel PEN
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) Swedish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru
Norwegian PEN President calls for Turkish civil society leader Kavala to be released from 904 days’ detention.
As of today, the civil society leader Osman Kavala has been in prison, in pre-trial detention for 904 days. Although he was acquitted of the fantastic charges in the Gezi case on February 19th 2020, he was rearrested that night and remains in prison in Silivri, Istanbul. The prosecutor of the Republic is now preparing a new indictment for a case against Kavala on espionage charges. The prosecutor is trying to infer that the Open Society Foundation grants to Turkey were used by Kavala to use overseas finance an attempt to destroy the Turkish constitutional order The Prosecutor for the Republic took over 1.5 years to prepare the indictment in the Gezi trial. To all the independent observers, public, lawyers, indeed anyone who followed the Gezi case it is clear that there is no justifiable legal reasoning behind any of the charges against Kavala. He is being held as a political hostage by the current regime. The European Court ruled strongly on December 10th, 2019, while Kavala was a defendant in the Gezi trial, that his incarceration was both politically motivated and a clear infringement of his rights to liberty and security and hist right to a fair trial.
Norwegian PEN monitored all 6 public hearings of the Gezi trial in Silivri prison in 2019 and 2020.
We call upon the government of Turkey to drop this charade and to uphold the rule of law. Osman Kavala must be released immediately. His pretrial detention is illegal, unjustified and in light of the current threats to prisoners posed by the COVID-19 virus, is a danger to his health. Kavala is a civil society leader whose foundation has enabled hundreds of art and literature projects to be realised, forging artistic friendships between Turkey and Europe. The nationalist element in Turkey’s government seem to see any cooperation with Europe as suspicious, and yet Turkey’s judicial system itself benefits from European Commission grants for training in human rights and other areas.
Kavala must be freed forthwith and compensated for the 904 days stolen from him. We will continue to monitor the current bogus case against him and will study the forthcoming indictment very closely. The fact that there are so few media sources that are able to hold the government to account goes to show the press freedom is still a critical concern in Turkey. We call for the restoration of the rule of law and for press freedom in Turkey and for the release on bail of all political prisoners during the current pandemic. Free Osman Kavala.
What can you do? Write to Osman with a few words of support:
Silivri Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
9 No’lu Cezaevi, A-7 / C 59
Please only include words of support for Kavala in your letter, as political messages are usually censored by the prison.