Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Violations of the right of expression: A Selection

Following the Minister of Internal Affairs Şahin's new definitions of terrorism also translated into English here on GIT - North America, whereby new concepts were invented for terrorism, including "scientific terrorism" or "artistic terrorism," some of the below selection show how such approaches are not limited to Minister Şahin--even if they do not all use terrorism as a label, they all illustrate criminalization of expression. Below is a selection from an annual media monitoring report prepared by Bianet.

"Laz Marks trial still pending: Haldun Açıksözlü, director of the political play Laz Marks, is tried before the Tunceli Magistrate Criminal Court on the grounds of his play. The trial was opened in November 2010. The latest hearing was held on 30 September. The allegations are based on Article 215 TCK (praising offences and offenders) and stem from the reference in the play to Turkish revolutionaries from the 1970s, i.e. Deniz Gezmiş, Mahir Çayan, İbrahim Kaypakkaya and Mazlum Doğan. Açıksözlü is facing prison terms of up to two years and a professional ban of between three months and three years upon the demand for a "deprivation of certain rights" (TCK 53). After Açıksözlü presented his defence, the trial was postponed to 19 November."

"One-year prison threat because of caricature: Caricaturist Bahadır Baruter is facing imprisonment of one year on the grounds of a caricature published in the Penguen magazine on 10 February. The caricature showed the slogan "There is no God, religion is a lie" written on the column of a mosque. The Department of Religious Affairs, the Foundation Officer's Union and a number of citizens complained about Baruter who stands accused of "denigrating the religious values of a part of the people" (TCK 216/3). At the first hearing on 29 September, the court decided to bring Baruter to court by compulsion and to accept the complainants to be included in the trial. Baruter's lawyer Tora Pekin expects the court to decide for lack of jurisdiction (Press Law 27/2) and to transfer the trial to the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The second hearing was scheduled for 29 March 2012."

"Genocide" trial on Article 301: Writer Temel Demirer is being tried because he allegedly said 'There was an Armenian genocide in this country' in front of the Human Rights Monument in Ankara on 20 January 2007 in protest of the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The trial was opened in January 2008 on the complaint of the Ankara Police Security Branch Directorate on charges of 'inciting the public to hatred and hostility' and 'humiliating the Turkish Republic' (TCK 216; 301). The trial is heard before the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance and was continued on 14 September. It was postponed to 28 December since the requested reply from the superior court had not been received yet."

"Arrest for protesting governor: Engineering Architecture and Planning + Acceleration Magazine editor-in-chief Fatih Özgür Aydın was taken into custody on 22 July and arrested on 25 July because he protested Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu at the Okmeydanı (Istanbul) Cem House. Aydın was taken to the Tekirdağ No.1 Prison. His indictment was issued on 17 August. The first hearing is scheduled for 15 November at the Çağlayan Courthouse. Aydın stands accused of "propaganda for an illegal organization without being a member of that organization (TCK 314/2), "propaganda for a terrorist organization" (TMK 7/2), "praising offences and offenders" (TCK 215), "Resisting Public Officials and Preventing Them from Performing Their Duty" (TCK 265) and opposing Law No.2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations. With an increase according to Article 5 TMK ("Increase of sentences") he is facing imprisonment of 53.5 years in total."

"Internet censorship for deputies: On 20 September, the Presidency of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) complicated access to the websites of KaosGL and LambdaIstanbul, two organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals (LGBT). The people in parliament who tried to access these sites received warnings on their screen like "restricted access", "homosexuality" and "fill in the form required for your work". Once the user skipped the warnings, a written form has to be filled in before access is admitted. Outside the parliament, both websites can be accessed as usual. Aylin Nazlıaka, Ankara Deputy of the opposition CHP, submitted a parliamentary question. In her motion she claimed that the discriminative implementations against LGBT individuals was contrary to the constitution and questioned what kind of measures is the government was going to take against this discrimination."

"IPI Report: The International Press Institute published a declaration on 28 September subsequent to the 2011 World Congress. Turkey was mentioned as one of the countries with the lowest level of press freedom". The declaration expressed concern about the situation that "64 journalists are still being detained in Turkey". The report emphasized that looking at the numbers of journalists in prison, Turkey had exceeded Iran and China.

'Problematic' letters: On 26 September, the Birgün newspaper reported that letters sent to convicts and detainees about experienced torture and usurpation of rights were confiscated by the administration of the Kocaeli No.1 F Type Prison because they were deemed 'problematic'. The seized letters include letters meant to be sent to Erzat Çifçi, Nuray Mert, Mecit Şahinkaya, Baran Furkan Gül, Özgür Mumcu, Tayfun Taç, Yaşar Seyman, Efdal Bayram, Ezgi Başaran, Özkan Yılmaz, Yıldırım Türker and Umur Talu.

Eğitim-Sen Istanbul Universities Branch Report: The Istanbul Universities Branch of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen) issued a report related to legal and political obstructions before the mass use of the right to demonstrations and freedom of expression of students. The report was prepared by academics, doctors, lawyers and representatives of various non-governmental organizations. It was introduced at the Istanbul Bar Association on 21 September."

"Criticizing censorship in prison: On 16 August, the President of the Writers Union of Turkey (TYS), Mustafa Köz, criticized the attitude of the administration of the Sincan Prison where writer Halil Gündoğan is being incarcerated. The prison administration had confiscated the draft of Gündoğan's unpublished book. Köz criticized, 'The prosecution of a thought instead of an action is a method of fascism but not of democracy'."

To read this comprehensive report in full, please visit: