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Turkey
15.12.03
Urgent Interventions

Turkey : Grotesque trial before the Izmir Penal Court against Dr Alp Ayan, Member of the Human Rights Foundation

TURKEY
Grotesque trial before the Izmir Penal Court against Dr Alp Ayan,
Member of the Human Rights Foundation


Izmir - Paris - Geneva - 15/12/03: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders - a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT - mandated an observer to attend the trial against Dr. Alp Ayan, Turkish psychiatrist and member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, who appeared before the Izmir Heavy Penal Court on 10 December 2003 , on the occasion of the UN Human Rights Day.

Together with the representative of the Observatory, other international observers participated in the hearing in Izmir, including Mr Torben Lund, the Social Democrat European Deputy, Dr Inge Genefke, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) Ambassador and Mr Poul Struve Nielsen, IRCT Media Co-ordinator.

The court decided once more, after a two-minutes hearing, to postpone the trial in order to hear further defenses and detain accused Mrs Gonca Coban, another defendant who hasn't appeared before the court and testified so far. The next hearing will be held on March 3, 2004.

Dr Alp Ayan is indicted with "insulting the Minister of Justice" on the grounds of article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC) in connection with a press statement criticizing the military intervention against prisoners on December 19, 2000 resulting in the death of 32 people (including 2 security forces officers) and the generalization of F-type prisons in Turkey. Article 159 of the TPC foresees the punishment of "those who publicly insult or ridicule Turkishness, the Republic, the moral personality of Parliament, the Government, State Ministers, the Military or State security forces, or the moral personality of the Judiciary".

Background information:

The Seventh EU harmonization package (Law N°4963) adopted by the Turkish Parliament on July 30, 2003 (and published on August 7, 2003) amended the Turkish Penal Code (TPC), and pertained to expand the contents of freedom of thought and expression. In particular, following these amendments, the last paragraph of the above-mentioned Article 159 of the TPC has been changed to "expressions of thought with the purpose of criticism, which do not include any deliberate words of insult or swearwords, do not necessitate punishment. Moreover, Article 1 of the law N.4963 amended the first paragraph of Article 159, and reduced the minimum punishment from one year to three months for the crime of insult against the moral personality of the state and state officials.

The change made to Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code means that the expression of opinion without the ``intention'' of ``insulting'' public institutions should no longer face criminal sanction. However, earlier the same day on December 10, five Turkish NGOs (The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, the Human Rights Association of Turkey, the Izmir Bar Association, the Izmir Medical Chamber and the Contemporary Lawyers Association) released a report concluding at the worrying permanence of human rights violations including through numerous cases of judicial harassment against human rights defenders in the country in spite of legislative improvements of the freedom of expression since the adoption of the seventh harmonization package.

"It is particularly alarming to witness such judicial harassments against human rights defenders in Turkey through the criminalization of freedom of expression and repeated delays of hearings without any valid reason on the occasion of the UN Human Rights day. It is now time for Turkish authorities to strengthen the understanding of freedom of expression, and the role of human rights defenders, among the judiciary in order to put an end to these unacceptable forms of intimidation" the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said.

In light of these developments before the Izmir Heavy Penal Court of First Instance n°5, the Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to:

1. Immediately drop the charges against Dr. Alp Ayan and the other defendants;
2. Put an end to judicial harassment against human rights defenders in the country and in particular ensure that similar charges against activists for having criticized Turkish security forces abuses be dropped;
3. Amend the Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code to comply with international and European standards;
4. Comply with 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 level".



Press contact : FIDH: 00 33 1 43 55 25 18 - OMCT: 00 41 22 809 49 24
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