Turkey: Immediately release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen

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Geneva-Paris-Ankara-Istanbul, 6 January 2022 - On 7 January 2022, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen will appear before the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance after being arbitrarily detained for 92 days for participating in the Boğaziçi University protests. Our organisations call on the authorities of Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release them and to drop all charges against all participants in the peaceful Boğaziçi University protests.

Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, Boğaziçi University students, have been arbitrarily detained since 5 October 2021, for their participation 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. For the first 51 days of their detention they were detained in solitary confinement. They currently remain detained in the high-security Silivri prison, in Istanbul, where they have been denied correspondence with their relatives, which violates the procedural rights of suspected or accused persons enshrined under international law, and are unable to attend university exams, which violates their right to education. Since the beginning of his detention, Ersin Berke Gök has also been denied food compatible with his diet.

On 5 October 2021, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and a group of eight other Boğaziçi University students were assaulted by university security guards as they were delivering a statement in front of the Boğaziçi University rectorate building,in Istanbul. They were subsequently taken to Istanbul police station. On the same day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labelled the protesting students as “terrorists who infiltrated universities”, and Rector Naci İnci submitted a formal complaint against the students before Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office.

On 6 October 2021, Istanbul 9th Magistrate’s Judgeship ordered Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen to be placed in pre-trial detention, while the other students were released with judicial control measures, pending investigation. The two were first detained in Metris prison, in Istanbul, before being transferred to Silivri prison on 26 October 2021.

On 26 November 2021, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor formally indicted Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen along with 12 other protesting students on 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 seizure of transport vehicles” (articles 109, 265 and 223 of the Criminal Code, respectively)in connection with their participation in the peaceful protest in front of the Boğaziçi University rectorate building on October 5, 2021. Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen face up to 6 to 32 years’ imprisonment.

Our organisations strongly condemn the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen and the judicial harassment of the 12 other participants to the Boğaziçi University protests, which take place in a context of an increased crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Turkey, as documented by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey as well as by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) and the Human Rights Association.

Our organisations are further deeply concerned about the ill-treatment Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen were subjected to prior to their arrest as well as their inhumane detention conditions, which may amount to torture, prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Turkey is a party to.

Our organisations urge the authorities of Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, to guarantee in all circumstances their physical integrity and psychological well-being, and to put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against them and all participants in the “Boğaziçi Resistance Movement”, which only aim at punishing them for their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities. We further call on the authorities to ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

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