Trial Calendar

September 2020

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  • Özgür Gündem Ana Davası (Eren Keskin)
  • Rosa Kadın Derneği davaları (Gülcihan Şimşek)
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  • Sevda Çelik Özbingöl
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Munzur Environment Culture and Solidarity Association leads a rights-based struggle against crimes committed against nature and biotope by making them more visible to the public eye. The President of the Association Ali Ekber Barmağıç was taken under custody on August 30, 2020. Barmağıç’s lawyers could not receive any information regarding his case under an order of confidentiality while he was detained for 4 days. He was taken to court on July 3, 2020 and arrested. The confidentiality order is still in place regarding his case. 

Ali Ekber Barmağıç was born in Ovacık, Dersim. He is a founding member and the fourth term president of Munzur Environment Culture and Solidarity Association; whose mission is to expose and struggle against ecological destruction and the government policies that cause it. He worked in the leather industry in Kazlıçeşme, Istanbul in 1980s; and later joined the ecological movement in the 90s against the hydro dam project on Munzur River. In 2003, Munzur Environment Culture and Solidarity Association was founded with 19 founding members. The association is a member of Platform Against Nuclear Power, Munzur Festival of Culture and Nature, Dersim Ovacık Village Associations and Union for Ecology (Ekoloji Birliği). Barmağıç is the fourth term president of the association to serve from 2019 to 2021. The association stands in solidarity with the ecological struggles led in Artvin, Fatsa, Sivas Bakırtepe, Aydın and Ida Mountains. 

Ali Ekber Barmağıç was taken under custody on June 30, 2020 following a police raid. Barmağıç’s lawyers could not receive any information regarding his case under an order of confidentiality while he was detained for 4 days. He was taken to court on July 3, 2020, arrested and taken to prison. Although there are news articles reporting that he is arrested because of his social media posts, these allegations cannot be confirmed since there is not an official indictment against him. 

Munzur Environment Culture and Solidarity Association held a press conference at the Istanbul branch office of the Human Rights Association (İHD) on July 1, 2020. Their statement read: “A number of our members and executives were and continue to be taken under custody; their families were and are being intimidated. At the moment, we do not know the allegations against our president.” Although the statement called for the immediate release of Barmağıç, he was arrested on July 3, 2020 and taken to Tekirdağ Muratlı T-type Prison. His clothes were not allowed inside the prison despite the 20 days he spent in detention. The association launched a signature campaign with the slogan “Environmental struggle is a lawful struggle” on July 25, 2020. Dersim representative of the same association, Özkan Arslan, was taken under custody upon landing to Istanbul on July 24, 2020. Arslan was going to attend a conference on ecology organized by the Ecology Commission of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Arslan was arrested four days later and taken to Metris Prison. 

Upon his arrest, 16 organizations led by the Platform to Protect Peri River released a joint statement calling to stand in solidarity with Özkan Arslan who fights for the freedom of Peri River.  

 

 

Tugay Kartal has been working for the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) for the past 43 years; is a member of the railway workers union for 29 years and an active member of Haydarpaşa Solidarity Movement for 15 years. Due to his union activities, there were a number of administrative investigations launched against him and fines were deducted from his salary. He was tried for strike actions. One of these lawsuits is ongoing. There are two administrative investigations concerning statements he made while representing Haydarpaşa Solidarity Movement as a railway worker. There is a May 2020 decision to relocate, or rather ‘exile’, Kartal but it has not come into effect due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Tugay Kartal comes from a family of railway workers. He graduated from Demiryol Vocational School in 1977 and started to work as a dispatcher at Van Railway Station. He has been working at Haydarpaşa Railway Station for the past 32 years. He became a member of Tümray-Sen (railway workers union) on November 13, 1991, the day the union was founded. This union later joined Dem-Sen, another union in the same sector, and adopted a new name: Demiryol-Sen. Demiryol-Sen later joined Hava-Sen, organized under the General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ), in 1995 under the United Trade Union of Transport Employees (BTS), which is a part of Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions (KESK).

Kartal served as a branch office board member for six terms since 1991 and has been serving as a workplace representative since 2017.

He was part of 19 of the 20 strike actions undertaken in the past 29 years. He underwent a number of administrative investigations. Three times he was fined and 4% of his annual salary was deducted, along with other deductions from his salary. Kartal and his colleagues were tried for each strike action they undertook. One of these trials in ongoing at the 48th Anadolu Criminal Court of First Instance.

In 2004, Kartal realized that something was going to happen at the Haydarpaşa Railway Station when he saw a photo at the TCDD District Office building of a project co-designed by TCDD and a German company. After some further investigation, the union decided to take this issue to the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and talk to Mücella Yapıcı, one of the executives of the Istanbul Metropolitan Branch. They learned that what the project was to build seven 70-story skyscrapers in a million square meters space closed to public that would serve as a World Trade Center. This meeting sowed the seeds of Haydarpaşa Solidarity Movement. Haydarpaşa Solidarity Movement was founded in 2005 when BTS and TMMOB Istanbul Metropolitan Branch joined their forces. It currently leads a struggle with 70 independent constituents. Their main goals are to protect the main function of the railway station and its environs and to ensure that the railway station that was left out of service with the Marmaray project is functional again. Haydarpaşa Watch takes place every Sunday between 1-2 pm since February 5, 2012 in front of the Station with the slogan “Haydarpaşa shall remain a Railway Station”. Tugay Kartal has been present all Sundays except for a few that coincided with his annual leaves.

In May 2020, 13 TCDD employees, who are also BTS members, were relocated involuntarily despite their high recorded merits and in violation of the provision under the workplace protection Law 4688 of the Trade Union Act. BTS announced that the justifications for this decision were the Pamukova, Çorlu train accidents, information relayed to public concerning the Haydarpaşa Railway Station and Port projects and exposing personnel cadre in and faults of the institution. Tugay Kartal filed a lawsuit at the administrative court to cease and annul the administrative decision concerning his relocation.

 

There are a number of indemnity and criminal lawsuits filed by leather and textile companies against the president of Izmir Branch of Deriteks Union under Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Türk-İş), Makum Alagöz. He is now facing 4 trials for his social media posts on the working conditions of union members.

Makum Alagöz has been working in leather industry since he was 12 years old. He started engaging in union activities at the factory he was working in 2002 and served as the representative of the workplace. He has been the president of Izmir Branch of Deriteks Union since 2005.

First time in 2009, a lawsuit was filed against him for engaging in union activities at a leather factory. Complaints at the Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Labour included allegations that he was forcing workers of the factory to unionize by threatening them. This case was dismissed later. 

In 2015, 14 workers were laid off at a leather and textile factory where Alagöz was leading union activities. An indemnity claim was filed against these workers on the grounds that they were creating “unfair competition”. The company also requested an interim injunction order at the Second Commercial Court of First Instance of Izmir. As per the ruling of the court, the banners and placards that read the company’s name were confiscated; and there was a ban on publicizing the case in the news or on social media. Despite this ruling, Alagöz continued to give updates on the pressure exerted on the factory workers on social media. As a consequence, a lawsuit demanding a compensation of 2 million Turkish liras for having degraded the company name was filed against him. Another administrative penalty case was brought against him for not respecting the interim injunction order. A global solidarity campaign was organized by the workers and concurrent protests took place in 28 countries. Considering the attention these case have attracted; the complainants withdrew their cases. The company paid union indemnity to the aforementioned workers. 

Union recruitment and mobilization regained momentum in August 2019 at the same company, which resulted in 4 workers to lose their jobs. A resistance started at the company premises on July 28, 2020 and is still ongoing. The company sued the laid off workers on the grounds of “unlawful competition” and demanded a 200 thousand liras in indemnity. Another international solidarity campaign was launched. The director and the deputy managers of the company filed separate criminal complaints against Makum Alagöz, for his social media posts in which he allegedly violated their personal rights. These posts included information on the pressure the workers were facing and those executing them.  During the mediation process, the employer offered to withdraw the complaints if Alagöz were to agree not to post or comment about the company on social media. The company withdrew their offer and continued with the court process after they refused Alagöz’s demands: the school expenses of the children of the miners who died during the 2014 Soma Mine Explosion should be covered and the company executives should leave flowers at the graves of these miners. 4 company executives filed separate cases against Alagöz. The first hearing took place at the 24th Criminal Court of First Instance of Izmir on July 2, 2020. The next hearing will be held on December 15, 2020 at 10.25.

Although Deriteks is primarily focused on leather and textile sectors, Makum Alagöz stood in solidarity with all workers regardless of the sector they belong.  In November 2018, Alagöz went to an olive factory in solidarity with the workers laid off for being union members; he was taken under custody with 65 other unionists. A legal suit was filed against them for “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” by not letting the executives of the aforementioned factory leave the premises. The court adjourned the decision for a year and 3 months imprisonment term and the case is at the court of appeal.

 

Rosa Women’s Association leads a struggle against all forms of violence against women. Since May 2020 its executives and members have experienced multiple police raids, after which they were taken under custody and arrested. They are now facing trial with the allegation that they are “members of an armed terrorist organization”. 

Rosa Women’s Association was founded on December 29, 2018 in Diyarbakir as a civil society organization. It is one of the few NGOs in the region that specifically focuses its activities on women’s rights. Adalet Kaya, who has worked against violence against women and promoted women’s rights under different institutions, founded the association, along with the following founding members: Ayla Akat Ata, Ruken Ergüneş Özdemir, Narin Gezgör, Fatma Gültekin, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş and Yüksel Baran.

Among the association’s objectives are: Leading a struggle against all forms of violence against women, doing away with all kinds of discrimination against women, developing and implementing projects that promote gender equality, strengthening civil society and women’s associations, protecting nature and natural life, promoting and establishing a culture of democracy and peace. The association has supported approximately 160 women who survived violence since its foundation.

The detention and arrest operations against the Rosa Women’s Association started on May 22, 2020 around 4 am. Rosa Women’s Association members and executives were among the 18 people taken under custody that day, who were later questioned on why they organized an event on March 8 and carried a sign concerning Gülistan Doku’s case.

13 association executives and members were taken under custody on May 22, 2020. 5 women, including Ayla Akat Ata, were released on probation next day and 8 others were arrested. 2 of the arrested were released later. The accusations brought against the association included a statement from an anonymous witness which read: “In order to garner more support for their cause and to expand their membership base, they bring up content concerning women’s rights and cases that attract the attention of the public, such as murders of women and sexual harassment, to portray themselves as a legal organization.”

The second wave of operations against the association took place on June 7, 2020. Association executive Gülistan Nazlıer and member Suzan İşbilen were taken under custody. Since İşbilen suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), she was taken under house arrest. Nazlıer was arrested. Association executive Rojda Barış was taken under custody on June 26, 2020 following a police raid at her house. Barış was arrested on June 29 with the accusation that she is a “member of an armed terrorist group”.

During their interrogations at the police station and the prosecutor’s office, the following allegations were made: Organizing March 8 protests, creating a convoy against sexism and violence in traffic, organizing a workshop titled “peace, as imagined by women”, holding a press conference against the war, protesting and making statements against policies that promote appointment of trustees, receiving an SMS from the association, collaborating with other NGOs in the province, giving statements to journalists, attending funerals and commemorations and posting on social media.

After three waves of operations against it, 8 women affiliated with Rosa Women’s Association are arrested while 8 others were released on probation. There is a warrant against 2 women, whereas one affiliated woman is already released. The names of the arrested human rights defenders are: Adalet Kaya, Narin Gezgör, Fatma Gültekin, Rojda Barış, Gülistan Nazlıer, Gülcihan Şimşek, Remziye Sızıcı, Sevim Coşkun. The alleged accusation brought against them is being a “member of an armed terrorist group”.

Adalet Kaya and Remziye Sızıcı were supposed to appear in court for the first time on July 9, 2020. The court held the hearing ex officio, therefore the hearing was held in absence of the defendants and their representatives, whereby a request was made to combine the cases and postponed the hearing to September. It was also decided that Kaya and Sızıcı remain under custody.

Adalet Kaya was released on August 18, 2020, before the trial date, and Narin Gezgör on September 4, 2020, as a result of the detention examination conducted by the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. On September 7, 2020, while Gülistan Nazlıer, whose first hearing was seen at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, was released, Sevim Coşkun’s detention was decided to continue.

The Covid-19 epidemic increased the pressure on labor unions. Members of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) were not allowed to enter Taksim Square on May Day and executives of the confederation were taken under custody. DİSK/Textile Gaziantep Region Representative Mehmet Türkmen was taken under custody after he became a target in the local media following his social media posts on conditions under which workers are forced to work at the factories during the pandemic. He was released upon giving a statement at the prosecutor’s office. 

DİSK/Textile Gaziantep Region Representative Mehmet Türkmen works as a carpet weaver. He started working as an apprentice at carpet workshops the age of nine in Ünaldı Industrial Zone of Antep. In 15 years of his working life, he became acquainted with the unionist movement at an early age. He assumed an active role in many resistance, strike and unionization actions in Antep in the past 25 years. 

Türkmen served as an organizer for the DİSK Textile Union during 2010, then for the Gaziantep Branch of the Petrol-İş Union between the years 2011-2013. Since September 2019, he has been serving as the DİSK/Textile Gaziantep Region Representative, representing textile factory workers in the provinces of Antep, Urfa, Maraş, Adıyaman and Malatya. 

There are two lawsuits brought against Türkmen following his social media posts, one pending and another one he acquitted from. In 2016, he criticized the state’s attitude towards Suruç Massacre in a social media post. Following that a lawsuit was launched against him with the accusation that he was “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”. This lawsuit was appended to the 2014 lawsuit against him following social media content he shared on Kobane. The aforementioned trial is ongoing at Gaziantep 8th Assize Court. Mehmet Türkmen was taken under custody on January 23, 2018 and detained under another lawsuit following his critique of government’s decision to pursue military operations in Afrin on his social media. On December 20, 2018, he acquitted from the trial he faced for the accusation that he was “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”. 

The period that led Mehmet Türkmen to be taken under custody on April 3, 2020 started with his social media posts dating to April 1 and 3, through which he announced that some factory workers were being forced to work despite the pandemic. Türkmen was targeted in local media outlets and accused of provocation. The factory mentioned in his social media posts suspended operations for 15 days following the protest of the workers. 

Türkmen was taken to Gaziantep Provincial Directorate of Security from his home in the night hours of April 3, 2020 following a notification accusing him of “provoking the public to hatred, hostility or degrading”. He gave his statement at the office and was taken to the Prosecutor’s Office the next day. After presenting his statement in front of the prosecutor, he was released without a referral to the court. 

Following Mehmet Türkmen’s statements, approximately 10 factories in the region stopped production lines and offered paid leave to their workers. 

The lockdown and curfew restrictions that started with the COVID-19 pandemic have been instrumentalized for the brutal repression and prevention of peaceful protests. Watch for Water and Conscience activists have been fined with an amount close to 100k Turkish Liras for not leaving their post despite the curfew.

Advocates for ecology and environmental rights have been increasingly facing repression and blockings ever since the second half of the 2000s. 12 eco-activists were detained back in 2012 in Ankara during a protest against the planned nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin. In 2016, in Cerattepe, Artvin, the non-violent resistance against a mining project was brutally attacked by the police with teargas and the leaders of the resistance were detained. Dozens of people were detained again in rallies held in support for the resistance in cities like Izmir and Kocaeli. Last year, once again, dozens of protestors were detained on several occasions during protests against the flooding of the Ilıca Dam in Hasankeyf. In March, 2020, two professors trying to protect the Center for Native Seed and Plant Production at the University of Pamukkale from the planned construction of a public facility were physically attacked. 9 locals of the Kirazlıyayla village in Bursa were detained with home invasion in the early hours of the morning of June 7, 2020 for resisting the building of a facility for flotation and waste disposal, only to be released on bail the next day. 

The lockdown and curfew restrictions that started with the COVID-19 pandemic have been instrumentalized for the brutal repression and prevention of peaceful protests. Watch for Water and Conscience Activists have been fined with an amount close to 100k Turkish Liras for not leaving their post despite the curfew. 

The Water and Conscience Watch started with a footage from the former forest land that became barren after 195 thousand trees cut by Alamos Gold, which operated the gold mine in Kazdağları (Ida Mountain Range) .

The watch began on July 26, 2019 by the call of the Watch for Water and Conscience Committee. Initially, the committee consisted of the vice presidents from the Municipality of Canakkale as well as executives and members of Ida Association for Solidarity. Following Fazıl Say’s recital on August 18, 2019, the committee decided to stop the watch, which was a constant tent-camp, and evacuated the area. Advocates from all around the country, who were there to show solidarity, however, held forums and decided to continue with the resistance camp. Those who stayed started a campaign, which they named Her Yer Kazdağları (Everywhere is Ida Mountain Range). Some organizations in support of the Watch from Canakkale and the bay area came together and held activities under the name ‘Birleşerek Kazanacağız’ (‘We’ll Win by Uniting’). Those living in Istanbul and had actively participated in the Kirazlı gold mine watch also came together to start a Kazdağları Istanbul Solidarity movement. At the moment, Birleşerek Kazanacağız, Istanbul Solidarity, Kazdağı Doğal ve Kültürel Varlıkları Koruma Derneği (Association for the Protection of Natural and Cultural Assets of Kazdağı), and Kazdağları Kardeşliği (Kazdağları Fellowship) are actively participating in the resistance camp run by Her Yer Kazdağları.

As of June 11, 2020, the watch has been going on for 322 days. The number of people on Balaban Hill  is constantly changing. Up to date, the lowest it’s been is 4 (due to the pandemic) and the highest, 200 people. Spokespersons are on the field at all times to speak for the watch. Food and other needs are provided through donations. At the same time, Kazdağları Istanbul Solidarity gives logistic and financial support to the camp by organizing events, where they sell merchandise such as  tote bags, badges, and t-shirts produced in collaboration with the camp. 

 

Ever since the watch started, Canakkale Forestry Department and Canakkale Governorship have been issuing penalties to create pressure on these advocates of life. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 10 advocates were fined 150 Turkish Liras a day for ‘camping overnight in the woods’. These penalties have been contested and the due process is still ongoing.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the activists took seriously the Ministry of Health’s warnings and self-isolated. They stopped accepting newcomers as a precaution. The officers from the Regional Forestry Department asked the activists to evacuate the area on the grounds of the decree given by the City Board of Public Health despite the fact that the local law reinforcement was already aware of the situation. The mine, though, was still kept active at the time. The activists stated that they were not leaving the area under those conditions, for which they were fined 3,180 Turkish Liras per person for 4 consecutive days, totaling up to 70,840 Liras. They were fined an additional 800 Liras per day during the Ramadan holiday, during which the entire country was under curfew. As of June 1, 2020, the local gendarmerie is continuing to keep record of those visiting the area, despite the loosening of the lockdown, on the grounds that regional parks have not yet been opened. On the World Environment Day (June 5th), local forces did not allow people from the city to be there for the press release organized by the activists in front of the gates of the mine.

On June 22, 2020, activists on the field filed a criminal complaint against the arrests and fines imposed on the watch. 

 

The pressure and intimidation on lawyers in Turkey are increasingly detrimental to the ‘right to defend’. Among the top risks lawyers run are their right to defend being ignored and disrespected in and out of court halls, mass detentions and arrests, investigations and intimidation for legal bar associations, lawyers being penalized for their clients. Lately, we saw another mass detention happening on March 12 of this year. Attorney-at-law Sevda Çelik Özbingöl, along with 12 of her colleagues in cities like Diyarbakır, Şırnak and Şanlıurfa were taken into custody following home invasions. Özbingöl has been arrested on March 17 and transferred to Urfa Type-T Penitentiary. She is being accused of being a member of an ‘armed terrorist organization’.

In the morning of March 12, with home invasions in three cities, Mesut Beştaş, Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay and Osman Çelik from Diyarbakır Bar Association; Hidayet Enmek, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz and Şeyhmus İnal from Şanlıurfa Bar Association, and Gürgün Kadirhan from Şırnak Bar Association were detained.

Many professional organizations released statements following the home invasions. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Advocates, an organization born as a partnership of International Federation of Human Rights and World Organization Against Torture, condemned the detentions and stated that the attorneys-at-law were being legally harassed with these unfounded detentions as a blow on the legitimate human rights actions taken by these people striving for human rights.

Sevda Özbingöl Çelik got arrested on March 17, 2020 for allegedly being ‘a member of an armed terrorist organization’. Özbingöl has been practicing law for 20 years in Urfa, where she focuses on human rights cases. She is a board member for Şanlıurfa Bar Association’s Human Rights Center and Women’s Rights Committee, as well as for the Şanlıurfa Branch of Human Rights Association, and a former co-president for HDP’s Şanlıurfa Office. Figen Yüksekdağ, HDP’s former co-president, is Çelik’s client in the case at Şanlıurfa 5th Assize Court where Yüksekdağ is accused with ‘making propaganda and being a member of an armed terrorist organization’.

In the interrogation at Şanlıurfa 3rd Penal Court of Peace, Çelik was asked questions about her professional work and the statements given by an anonymous witness, known as ‘Rüzgar’. In her statement, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik emphasized that her actions have always remained within the borders of attorney-client relationship. She also affirmed that her meetings with the people mentioned in the statements given by anonymous witnesses were all done for professional reasons and that those people are her clients. 

However, the court decreed an arrest for Sevda Çelik Özbingöl. Her colleagues protested the decision and gave a statement to the press in front of the bar association office, where they emphasized that Çelik has been arrested based on her legitimate professional actions, her meetings with her clients and based on statements given by anonymous witnesses.

The first hearing of Sevda Çelik Özbingöl was held at Şanlıurfa 6th High Criminal Court on Thursday, August 27, 2020, at 09:00, after approximately 5 months of detention. The court decided to continue the detention and adjourned the trial until September 25, 2020.

 

Dr. Ömer Melik, the president of Urfa Medical Association, and its secretary general, Dr. Osman Yüksekyayla, have been detained and now are facing trial based on the association’s posts on social media regarding Covid-19. All the posts mentioned in the investigation were concerned with protecting the public and health personnel in the fight with the pandemic. They are currently charged with ‘urging the public to panic and fear’.

The two executives of Urfa Medical Association were called in by the cybercrimes division to give their statements on April 27, 2020. Following their statements, they were referred to the prosecutor’s office for their posts about coronavirus shared from the association’s Twitter account. These posts were touching upon issues like the provision of the lacking protective equipment, introducing PCR testing into the city of Urfa, installing measurements for trips that agricultural laborers make to the fields, and applying the bonus payment offered to health personnel to the entire public. 

From the very start of the pandemic, the Medical Association was not invited to any of the boards and committees neither those of the City Office of Health nor the Mayor’s Office. Not being allowed to have a voice in these official settings, the Medical Association resorted to make their voices heard to both the public and officials through social media. Due to the fact that they are part of a professional association, the two doctors expressed in their statements that their actions were done with careful consideration of being responsible to those who are on the forefront of the fight (namely, doctors), all health personnel, and the public. They shared with the public their assessment of the data coming from the field in order to raise awareness for the fight against the pandemic. The observations and critiques shared in the social media posts intended to help the process go smoother, healthier in a more planned fashion, and with less harm done. 

Urfa Medical Association published a pandemic report on March 31, 2020. In this report, it was stated that the confirmed cases were continuing to be on the rise. On April 5, they tweeted the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in Urfa. Upon this tweet, Ömer Melik was called in to give a statement on April 8 and was charged with, again, ‘urging the public to fear and panic’.

Leading the Urfa Medical Association for two years, Dr. Ömer Melik was born in Urfa in 1974. He’s a doctor of 20 years of experience with an expertise in pediatrics. Presently, he is working in the intensive care and newborn departments at Şanlıurfa Eğitim ve Araştırma Hastanesi (Urfa Training and Education Hospital).

In an interview he gave to Gazete Duvar, a news website, on April 13, 2020 he said: ‘That tweet was only concerned about numbers of confirmed and possible cases in Urfa and patients in intensive care and deaths. We know that the Ministry of Health already shares this data every night with the public. I have not been able to understand why it constitutes a crime to share these numbers under the name of Medical Association.’ 

The secretary general, Dr. Osman Yüksekyayla was born in Urfa in 1985. He’s working as an internal medicine specialist at the same hospital as Melik. From 2016 to 2018, he was the Urfa representative for the Grand Assembly of Turkish Medical Association. He’s been the secretary general for the Urfa branch since 2018. 

Both doctors were released on bail following their statements on April 27, 2020. The investigation is ongoing.

 

Hasan Ceyhan, always on the forefront for peace, is a risk-taking and a determined advocate for safeguarding the right to live for many civilians. Having made a public conversation possible about the mass graves in Bitlis, Ceyhan was arrested while he was the president of the Bitlis branch of Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği, ‘İHD’) as well as the Bitlis representative for Amnesty International. Ceylan, who suffers from cardiovascular disease and is on daily medication, is currently in prison for ‘being a member of a terrorist organization’.  

Prior to the court hearing scheduled for April 26, 2018, Human Rights Association requested Hasan Ceylan to be released based on his potentially fatal cardiovascular condition and his case proceedings, which were back then at Court of Cassation stage, to take place while he is out. However, despite even the COVID-19 measures, he has been kept in Rize’s Kalkandere Penitentiary.

Ceylan has served as the City Representative and Branch President for the Human Rights Association in Bitlis in his fight for human rights. He ignited a public conversation around the three mass graves found in Mutki’s District Dumpsite back in 2011.

The mass graves, holding bodies of those killed in 1992, 1996, and 2003, were discovered thanks to statements given by a digger operator contracted with the Municipality of Mutki back in the 90’s. The families of the deceased had applied to İHD’s Bitlis Field Office for the bodies of their loved ones to be found.  In 2011, Ceylan played an important role once again in rescuing the three employees of a phone carrier, when they were kidnapped by PKK during their trip to the Yelkenli Village in Anadere upon a request to fix a technical issue in the area.

Some of these actions were used against him as evidence in his indictment. Ceylan was detained on March 19, 2017 and later arrested for ‘being a member of a terrorist organization’ on March 29 of the same year. He faced trial for his actions, most of which were done under the official umbrella of İHD’s rules and procedures; and received a sentence of 7 years and 6 months based on Turkish Criminal Code Articles 314/2, 53, 58/9, 63 as well Article 5/1 of the Law 3713. Among the evidence shown against him were statements given by arrested members of PKK and anonymous witnesses, funerals he had attended, meetings and events he attended representing İHD, and newspapers found in his home. One of the witnesses later confessed that his original statement was given under compulsion and it did not reflect the reality. Another witness affirmed during trial that the signature under his statement was not his.

Hasan Ceylan repetitively explained in his defense that the actions that were shown as evidence against him were mostly part of his job as an İHD executive and an advocate for human rights. When asked about his role as mediator in getting PKK to release the hostages, he expressed that he mediated as a neutral advocate for human rights because he knew he was trusted, and it was his duty as an advocate for human rights. As for the funerals he attended, he reminded the court that there is no law for the dead and his going to the funerals of the PKK members was a sociological requirement of the region. Ceylan’s file is currently at Court of Cassation following the rejection of his request of appeal and Court of Appeal’s decision dated September 26, 2019, that Ceylan remains under detention for the rest of the legal process. 

Presidents of Van-Hakkari Medical Chamber and Mardin Medical Chamber were summoned by the police to give statements regarding their interviews on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on public health and the provinces for which they are responsible. The accusation brought against them is “causing fear and panic among the public”. 

President of Van-Hakkari Medical Chamber and a member of the Psychiatric Association of Turkey (Türkiye Psikiyatri Derneği), psychiatrist Özgür Deniz Değer was summoned to give his statement regarding the interview he gave to Mezopotamya Ajansı on March 19, 2020 published under the title ‘Tek bir virüs vakası tüm cezaevini hasta eder’ (A single case can infect everyone in the prison). Değer was evaluating the precarious conditions of prisoners against the corona virus in this interview. Değer gave his statement at Van Police Department against the accusation for “causing fear and panic among the public”.

Osman Sağlam is the Co-chair of Mardin Medical Chamber, an internal medicine specialist, and an emergency physician. On March 28, 2020, he was summoned to give his statement at Mardin Provincial Police Department regarding the interviews he gave to Mezopotamya Ajansı and Gazete Duvar. Osman Sağlam criticized the inadequate level of precautions taken to manage the epidemic and the reluctance of Mardin Provincial Directorate of Health to share information regarding the epidemic. It was later revealed that the Provincial Directorate of Health had filed the complaint against him. 

Özgür Deniz Değer was born in 1979 in Van. He graduated from Mersin University School of Medicine and worked as a general practitioner at Van Muradiye State Hospital. He competed his specialization at Bakırköy Ruh Sağlığı ve Sinir Hastalıkları Hastanesi. While he was working in Istanbul, he acted as the vice president of Istanbul Branch of the Psychiatric Association of Turkey. Following his service at Sivas Şarkışla State Hospital, he returned to Van in 2014 and continued to work there.

He was a member of the committee that drafted the research and evaluation report on Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, Van, Bitlis and Tatvan districts, jointly published in 2015 by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services (SES), the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and the Psychiatric Association of Turkey (TPD). 

Değer’s public statements to this day has a focus on health and rights. He reminded the public that the rising number of suicides in Turkey is of a political and social concern as a product of the economy and politics of the country. He stated that the health facilities in Van are not prepared to respond to the corona virus. He reminded the public about the health conditions of the prisoners on hunger strike. 

One of these interviews was published on March 19, 2020 on Mezopotamya Ajansı website. He was summoned to give his statement at Van Police Department regarding his statements on the coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic, the level of preparedness and the great risk the prisoners were under due to this epidemic.  He was accused of “causing fear and panic among the public”. He was not detained after his statement. Değer revealed that his statements during the aforementioned interviews were questioned at the police station and as the President of a Medical Chamber and a physician, he acted under his duty to inform the public.

Osman Sağlam has been active in Mardin Medical Chamber since 2016. He is also a member of the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services (SES) Mardin Office. He was arrested on October 8, 2014, while trying to help those arrested during a Kobane support march. He was later released. On February 6, 2015, he was attacked by relatives of a patient at the primary care center in Ortaköy neighborhood of Artuklu district in the province of Mardin. He was among the group that publicly announced the inefficacy of the “Law on Violence Against Health [Professionals]” on November 2, 2018. Osman Sağlam represented Mardin Medical Chamber in a joint press statement issued on the “Law on Violence Against Health Professionals” by Mardin Medical Chamber, Mardin Dental Chamber and KESK Mardin Offices Platform. 

On March 18, 2020, Sağlam issued his personal statement titled “Hekimler virüs teşhisi koymaya çekiniyor”(Physicians are reluctant to diagnose a case with the virus”), where he said “A physician who diagnosed a case with coronavirus was forced to take a leave of absence. The physicians are reluctant to diagnose [these cases]”. Sağlam also spoke to Gazete Duvar on March 25, 2020. In this article, he informed that 50 people were under quarantine in Mardin. He underlined “We don’t need the applause but the protective gear. We requested a meeting with the Director of Provincial Health Department. We called him on his personal phone for two days, sent him messages but to no avail. As a consequence, we have not been able to share information or take joint action.” Sağlam was summoned to Mardin Police Department to give a statement on March 28, 2020.

On March 30, 2020, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council requested, in writing, that Medical Chamber representatives would be included in the Covid-19 Pandemic Provincial Coordination Committees and Provincial Public Health Councils.

TTB is one of the largest civil society organizations and the only health association with experience in crisis response in Turkey. TTB is deliberately left out of the crisis response mechanism by the government, further exposing government’s interest in collaborating only with the pro-government organizations and serving the similar section of the public, and interpreted as an attempt by the government to silence those critical of government’s management of the crisis.  

 

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