Turkey: outcry over detention of human rights Defenders – even Russia joins in

June 23, 2016

An academic and two journalists who play a key role in Turkey’s human rights movement have been jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda. Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Boarder, Front Line, and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of FIDH and OMCT), among others, have raised serious concern and demanded their immediate release.

Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” 
Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu at the court house in Istanbul hours before being jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of “making terrorist propaganda.” © 2016 private

An Istanbul court on 20 June, 2016, accepted a prosecutor’s request for them to be placed in pretrial detention on suspicion of having committed terrorist offenses. They are Erol Önderoglu, who is the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders and a journalist with the independent news website Bianet; Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic at Istanbul University’s forensic medicine department and head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and journalist.

The decision to demand the detention of Önderoğlu, Fincancı, and Nesin is a shocking new indication that the Turkish authorities have no hesitation about targeting well-known rights defenders and journalists who have played a key role in documenting the sharp deterioration in human rights in the country,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “

The three were among 44 journalists, writers, and activists who participated in a solidarity campaign for media freedom in which each of them acted as a symbolic co-editor-for-a-day at the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem in Istanbul. The government sees the newspaper as hostile to it and as a result has placed it under immense pressure.

Jailing a world-renowned journalist and human rights defender such as Erol sends a very powerful signal of intimidation to the entire profession in Turkey. It’s a new, unbelievable low for press freedom in Turkey,” Johann Bihr, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at RSF, told CPJ. At least 14 journalists were imprisoned in Turkey on December 1, 2015, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/turkey-fair-trial-human-rights-lawyers-expression-l4l/]

Front Line Defenders has more information on these individuals: Sebnem Korur Fincanci (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/sebnem-korur-fincanci)  who also received the International Hrant Dink Award for her human rights work. Erol Önderoğlu (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/erol-onderoglu)  and Ahmet Nesin (https://frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/ahmet-nesin).

While the NGO reactions are expected, more remarkable is the reaction from Russia which (in the good company of the USA, the UN and the EU) has condemned the crackdown on Turkey’s press freedom:There virtually is a ban on the journalist profession in Turkey… And here, as I said yesterday, the position of not only international organizations which we shall be stirring, such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the United Nations and unfortunately their representatives do not always react in an adequate and timely fashion to such violations, demonstrating a selective approach, but also the position of human rights defenders, the position of human rights organizations is important, and the position of the journalist community is very important,” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Human Rights Ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov told Sputnik on Tuesday.

Russia Today (RT) surprisingly quotes US-based watchdog Freedom House saying that the EU should not put a blind eye to Ankara’s violations of freedom of speech. “Imprisoning journalists and human rights defenders for ‘terror propaganda’ shows just how vague and overly broad Turkey’s laws are,” said Executive Vice President Daniel Calingaert. “This decision is a stark reminder to the European Union that it should not compromise on its values in negotiations with Turkey over visa liberalization. The EU should stand firm against the Turkish state’s abuse of the law to silence critical voices”.

UPDATE: Ap on 30 June 2016 report that:  Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Erol Onderoglu, Turkey’s representative to Reporters Without Borders, are to remain free pending trial on charges of “propaganda for terror organization PKK,” or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The first hearing is scheduled for November 8. A different court is handling the case against writer and journalist Ahmet Nesin and there has been no decision yet on the possibility of his release pending trial, according to Anadolu. [http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/human-rights-media-activist-released-turkey-40248779]

Sources:

Turkey: Rights Defenders, Journalists Jailed | Human Rights Watch

https://www.cpj.org/2016/06/reporters-without-borders-representative-two-other.php

http://sputniknews.com/politics/20160607/1040908689/turkey-press-freedom.html

https://www.rt.com/news/347562-turkey-journalists-terror-propaganda/

http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/turkey/2016/06/d23809/

One Response to “Turkey: outcry over detention of human rights Defenders – even Russia joins in”


  1. […] A Turkish court on Thursday 30 June 2016 released a prominent press freedom advocate and leading human rights defender, two of three activists put under pre-trial arrest on June 20 for participating in a solidarity campaign with a pro-Kurdish daily newspaper. [see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/turkey-outcry-over-detention-of-human-rights-defenders-is-e…] […]


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