Turkey: Continuing judicial harassment and obstacle to freedom of movement of Mr. Tuna Altınel

09/12/2019
Urgent Appeal
en fr

TUR 005 / 1219 / OBS 102
Judicial harassment /
Obstacle to freedom of movement
Turkey
December 9, 2019

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing judicial harassment and obstacle to freedom of movement of Mr. Tuna Altınel, a Turkish university associate professor living in France[1] who has been promoting peace in Turkey for several years. He is an active member of Academics for Peace[2] and the signatory of many petitions calling for peace in Turkey[3]. He signed the petition entitled “As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime!” in January 2016 after having travelled several times to the provinces cited in the text to see the war and help the victims.

According to the information received, on November 19, 2019, during his second hearing, the prosecutor reclassified the charges against Mr. Tuna Altınel from “membership to a terrorist organisation” to “terrorist propaganda”. Mr. Tuna Altınel’s lawyers requested a postponement of his trial, which is now scheduled for January 24, 2020. If convicted, Mr. Tuna Altınel may face between one and five years in prison. In the meantime, the Turkish authorities still retain his passport which they confiscated since he arrived in Turkey on April 12, 2019, preventing him from leaving the country.

Mr. Tuna Altınel was arrested on May 10, 2019 and placed in pre-trial detention on May 11, 2019 in Balıkesir, Turkey, on charges of "membership to a terrorist organisation", namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê - PKK). On July 30, 2019, the first hearing was held before the Balıkesir 2nd Heavy Penal Court and he was provisionally released, after 81 days of pre-trial detention, awaiting trial.

Mr. Tuna Altınel is currently being prosecuted for his attendance, on February 21, 2019, at a meeting of the Franco-Kurdish association “Amitiés Kurdes” [4] registered in Lyon, France, of which he is a member. This meeting consisted of a documentary projection followed by discussions and testimonies about the events that took place in Cizre, Turkey, in February 2016. During this event, Mr. Tuna Altınel translated the comments of some of the speakers, including Mr. Faysal Sarıyıldız, an exiled deputy of the People’s Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi - HDP, pro Kurdish) who was present at the meeting.

Previously, on April 12, 2019, the Turkish authorities confiscated Mr. Tuna Altınel’s passport when he landed at Istanbul’s Sabiha-Gökçen Airport for a personal visit. Upon his arrival, he presented his Turkish passport and was taken by a police officer to be questioned about his political involvement and alleged links with Kurdish organisations. Following this interrogation, he remained free but the Turkish authorities decided to confiscate his passport on the grounds that it was “damaged”. Mr. Tuna Altınel spent a month trying to understand the reasons for the confiscation of his passport and eventually, on May 10, 2019, he went to Balıkesir Prefecture, where it had been issued. There, the administration officers of the passport restriction office told him that there was nothing they could do for him. One hour after he left, the person in charge of this office contacted him again and asked him to bring a copy of his identity document. He went back to the Prefecture, where two plain clothes policemen were waiting for him. They took him into custody and brought him into the “fight against terror” section of the police station where he was searched. He then made a statement in the presence of a lawyer and learned he was accused of “membership to a terrorist organisation”. He spent the night at the police station. On May 11, 2019, he appeared before the judge of sentences and peace [5] in the presence of the same lawyer. The judge, following the request of the Balıkesir prosecutor, rule for his detention. Mr Tuna Altınel was subsequently taken to Kepsut prison.

The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time Mr. Tuna Altınel is targeted for the legitimate exercise of his human rights activities. In January 2016, Mr. Tuna Altınel signed, like more than 2,000 others, the Academics for Peace’s petition “As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime!” which called for an end to military operations targeting Kurdish cities in south-eastern Turkey. Following this petition, considered by the Turkish authorities as an act of propaganda in favour of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), hundreds of signatories, including Mr. Tuna Altınel, were prosecuted for "terrorist propaganda”. As of today, on the 822 signatories who were put on trial, 152 have been sentenced and 539 have been acquitted. Mr. Altınel’s first hearing was held on February 28, 2019. On July 16, 2019, his second hearing was held, to which he participated by video-conference, being imprisoned at that time. On July 26, 2019, after nine academics convicted for signing the petition brought the matter before the Constitutional Court, the Court ruled that their conviction was a "violation of freedom of expression", and they were awarded a compensation of 9,000 Turkish Liras (approximately EUR 1,500)[6]. Mr. Altınel’s third hearing was scheduled for December 26, 2019, but he was acquitted on September 16, 2019 following the above-mentioned decision of the Constitutional Court.

The Observatory firmly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Tuna Altınel, which seemed to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the Turkish authorities to give him back his passport and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all the human rights defenders in Turkey.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally give Mr. Tuna Altınel his passport back and stop all the restrictions to his freedom of movement ;
ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Tuna Altınel and against all human rights defenders in Turkey;
iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

· President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül, E-mail: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
· Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu, Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30
· H.E. Mr. Kaymakci Faruk, Ambassador, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, E-mail: tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
· H.E. Mr. Sadık Arslan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59

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

***

Paris-Geneva, December 9, 2019

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 FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT 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:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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[1] Mr. Tuna Altinel is a mathematics associate professor at Lyon 1 Claude Bernard University of Lyon (France) since 1996.
[2] Academics for Peace is an academic consortium created in 2012 to contribute to the peace process in Turkey by disseminating knowledge and information on a number of related topics. See : https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/node/1
[3] He is the signatory, among other petitions, of : “As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime! ” (January 2016) ; W e are ready to save those in Cizre if you won’t (January 2016) ; “ Letter to the parliament against the Afrin Operation ” (January 2018) and several petitions to support members of Academics for Peace.
[4] “Amitiés Kurdes” is a friendship organisation founded and governed by native French citizens who sympathize with the Kurdish people’s demands.
[5] “Sulh ceza hakimliği” in Turkish
[6] See Observatory Urgent Appeal TUR 004 / 1119 / OBS 093, published on November 15, 2019.

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