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Türkiye
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Urgent Interventions

Turkey: Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment against Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 009 / 1221 / OBS 130
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Ill-treatment / Excessive use of force
Turkey
December 21, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and acts of ill-treatment against Messrs. Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, students at Boğaziçi University, in Istanbul, and participants in the “Boğaziçi Resistance Movement”, a student mobilisation that calls for academic freedom and peacefully protests against the appointment of rectors by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan[1].

On January 7, 2022, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen will appear before the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance for the first hearing in their case. They are facing charges of “not complying with orders by the security forces for the dispersal of an unlawful demonstration” (article 32 of the Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations), “deprivation of liberty”, “preventing public duty” and “hijacking or seizing transport vehicles” (articles 109, 265 and 223 of the Criminal Code, respectively) in connection with their participation in a peaceful protest in front of the Boğaziçi University rectorate building on October 5, 2021. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen remained detained in high-security Silivri Prison, in Istanbul, where they have been denied correspondence with their relatives. Since the beginning of his detention, Ersin Berke Gök has not been provided with food compatible with his diet.

On October 5, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and a group of eight other Boğaziçi University students were battered by university security guards as they were peacefully delivering a statement in front of the rectorate building. They were subsequently arrested by police officers and taken to the İstanbul Police Station. Three of them were released with judicial control measures, pending investigation.

On the same day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labelled the protesting students as “terrorists who infiltrated universities” in his speech delivered at the 2021-2022 Higher Education Academic Year Opening Ceremony. Moreover, rector Naci İnci submitted a complaint against the students before the prosecutor’s office on charges of “threat”, “insult”, “damage to property”, “preventing public duty” (articles 106, 151 and 265 of the Criminal Code, respectively) and “violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations”.

On October 6, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and five other students were taken to the Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse for interrogation at the prosecutor’s office. While four of them were released with judicial control measures, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and another student were referred to the Istanbul 9th Magistrate Judgeship. Messrs. Gök and Özen were placed in solitary confinement in Metris Prison, in Istanbul, on charges of “preventing public duty” and “not complying with orders by the security forces for the dispersal of an unlawful demonstration”, and the third student was released with judicial control measures.

On October 26, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen were transferred to Silivri Prison. On November 26, 2021, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor formally indicted them on charges of “not complying with orders by the security forces for the dispersal of an unlawful demonstration”, “deprivation of liberty”, “preventing public duty” and “hijacking or seizure of transport vehicles”.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen as well as the ongoing violations of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly documented by the Observatory in the report “A Perpetual Emergency: Attacks on Freedom of Assembly in Turkey and Repercussions for Civil Society”.

The Observatory urges the authorities of Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, and put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level- against them and all participants in the “Boğaziçi Resistance Movement”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen and all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, their detention being arbitrary as it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the access of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen to their family members and lawyers;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment –including at the judicial level– against Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen and all other human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Ensure the respect in all circumstances of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly that is protected by both the Constitution of Turkey and international instruments ratified by Turkey, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Addresses:

  • Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, December 21, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
  • Tel FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

[1] On January 2, 2021, former parliamentary candidate for the ruling party Justice and Development Party (AKP) Melih Bulu was appointed as the new rector of Boğaziçi University by Presidential Decree. Boğaziçi University students, together with students from other universities, university staff and professors have carried peaceful protests since then, calling for the respect of academic freedom and the autonomy of universities. On August 21, 2021, Mr. Bulu was replaced by Naci İnci as a rector through Presidential Decree. The protests have been met with repression, arbitrary arrests, judicial harassment and stigmatisation.

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