Urgent Interventions

Press release : Turkey - Dr. Alp Ayan Trial: State sponsored harassment of Human Rights Defender


Dr. Alp Ayan Trial: State sponsored harassment of Human Rights

Izmir / TURKEY, April 25, 2003.
In the framework of their joint program, the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the FIDH and the OMCT, sent a
judicial observer to attend the third hearing of the case against Dr
Alp Ayan, a Turkish psychiatrist and member of the Izmir Center for
the Rehabilitation of the Torture Victims of the Human Rights
Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), charged both for having "insulted
Turkish Armed Forces" and for having "insulted the Ministry of
Justice" under article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Other international observers were present at the hearing before the
Izmir Penal Court of First Instance, on April 24 at 9.50 am: Mr
Torben Lund, Danish member of the European Parliament and
representatives of various international organisations, including
IRCT, Amnesty International, the International Physicians for the
Protection of Nuclear War, and the Berlin Centre for the Treatment of
torture victims.

The Observatory is once again alarmed to note that Dr Ayan has been
charged for his activities to promote human rights, in this instance,
for participating in a protest meeting on February 10, 2002 where he
read a press release denouncing torture and inhuman detention
conditions in Turkish prisons. This press release criticized not only
the inhuman detention conditions in F-type prisons, but also
condemned the actions of the police during a transfer of political
prisoners into F-type prisons on December 19, 2000, which resulted in
32 deaths.

The Court ruled yesterday that the case was beyond its jurisdiction,
arguing that the amendments to article 159 of the Penal Code were
adopted after the crime was committed . The Heavy Penal Court,
previously in charge of the case, had also decided that the case was
beyond its jurisdiction according to the same above-mentioned
amendments. The Penal Court therefore decided to send the case to the
Court of Cassation to solve the conflict of competences.

The Observatory remains concerned that this trial is another
manifestation of State sponsored harassment of members of the Turkish
Human Rights Foundation (See Observatory International and Legal
Observation Mission Report - Turkey - Judicial Harassment Against
human Rights Defenders - December 2002). This procedure against Dr
Alp Ayan forms part of a larger set of criminal proceedings against
members of TIHV who have been relentlessly harassed and currently
face criminal charges over their involvement in the prison crisis in

Background information on F-type prison in Turkey
The Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Commission has repeatedly
concluded that excessive and disproportionate use of force had been
used on the occasion of military operation in the prisons since 1995
in Turkey.

In the early morning hours of December 19, 2000, over 10.000 members
of the Turkish security forces commenced a simultaneous military raid
into twenty prisons across Turkey. "Operation Return to life", as
this planned military intervention was called, aimed to enforce the
transfer of over a thousand prisoners into Turkey's newly constructed
"F-type" prisons and halt the widespread hunger strikes and "death
fasts" of political prisoners who had been protesting against the
introduction of F-type prisons since October 2000.

FIDH and OMCT are deeply concerned by the absence of thorough and
independent inquiry aiming at clarify the use of disproportionate and
excessive use of force, and in
particular the allegations of use of tear gas grenades and gas with a
neurological effect used by the security forces in the course of the
operation. Rather than initiating
investigations into the actions of the security forces, the Turkish
State has instead commenced investigations against the prisoners
themselves and increase pressure on
all NGOs that have voiced concerns about "Operation Return to Life"
and have expressed their disapproval of the F-type prison's regime of
isolation and the increased
likelihood of torture and ill-treatment in these prisons.

The European Commission has recently proposed a "road map" to Turkey,
which, if followed, would allow it to join the European Union. In
this context, Turkey is notably
urged to put into practice measures to fight against the use of
torture and guarantee "in practice" prisoners' defence rights. In
addition, on 12 March, the European
Parliament issued a draft report on "Turkey's application for
membership of the European Union" urging, amongst other requests,
that an amnesty be granted to those
imprisoned for their opinions who are serving their sentences in
Turkish prisons for expressing non-violent sentiments".

The Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to:

- Ensure that the charges against Dr Alp Ayan and the other
defendants be dropped;

- Put an end to judicial harassment against human rights defenders
and in particular ensure that similar charges against activists for
having protest against the poor
detention condition in the country be dropped, since they only aim is
to sanction their activities as human rights defenders;

- Abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of
human Rights Defenders adopted on the 9th of December 1998, by the UN
General Assembly
("Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups
and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized
human rights and fundamental freedoms") particularly, Article 1
"Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others,
to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human
rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international

- To comply with the provisions of all human rights instruments
ratified by Turkey as well as with the Copenhagen criteria allowing
for membership in the European Union.

Contacts : FIDH : 00 33 1 43 55 25 18 / OMCT : 00 41 22 809 49 39
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