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Freedom of expression weekly bulletin_13.06.28_26

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The headline of the week is once again the disproportionate use of force and violence by the police… …

The headline of the week is once again the disproportionate use of force and violence by the police…
The police used water cannons, teargas bombs and rubber bullets to disperse the thousands gathered with carnations in their hands in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Saturday 22 June, in memorial for people killed during recent protests.
The police intervention continued in Istanbul as well as in other cities such as Ankara and Adana, with the number of injured increasing day by day. The mainstream media continues to broadcast only the statements made by the government, leaving out any news on the Gezi Park resistance.
The police officer who shot Ethem Sarısülük dead during the Gezi Park protests became another name on the list of “unpunished” public servants as he was released free on a pending trial. A group of young people beaten by police in an underground parking lot in Antalya did not file a criminal complaint.
Ambassadors to EU member states, who were targeted by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his rallies with statements like “Behave yourself”, met with government commissioners. Progress was made when the ambassadors signed a common statement for the first time in Turkey in which they expressed their concern over the recent developments, especially regarding police attitude towards peaceful protesters and respect for freedom of the press.

Following the arrests, comparable to a modern day ‘witch-hunt’ due to message sharing on social media sites, Facebook denied accusations that it was collaborating with the government. The same day, Istanbul’s Police Department’s Security Branch announced that they have launched an investigation into twitter messages on the Gezi Park resistance.

To sum up, the government continues to jeopardise the constitutionally embedded human rights of both freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, particularly in monitoring social media platforms and banning anyone from entering Gezi Park for two weeks.

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  • 1. Think, think… Freedom of Expression Weekly Bulletin (Issue 26/13, 28 June 2013) What happened last week? (20 - 28 June 2013) The headline of the week is once again the disproportionate use of force and violence by the police… The police used water cannons, teargas bombs and rubber bullets to disperse the thousands gathered with carnations in their hands in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Saturday 22 June, in memorial for people killed during recent protests. The police intervention continued in Istanbul as well as in other cities such as Ankara and Adana, with the number of injured increasing day by day. The mainstream media continues to broadcast only the statements made by the government, leaving out any news on the Gezi Park resistance. The police officer who shot Ethem Sarısülük dead during the Gezi Park protests became another name on the list of “unpunished” public servants as he was released free on a pending trial. A group of young people beaten by police in an underground parking lot in Antalya did not file a criminal complaint. Ambassadors to EU member states, who were targeted by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his rallies with statements like “Behave yourself”, met with government commissioners. Progress was made when the ambassadors signed a common statement for the first time in Turkey in which they expressed their concern over the recent developments, especially regarding police attitude towards peaceful protesters and respect for freedom of the press. Following the arrests, comparable to a modern day ‘witch-hunt’ due to message sharing on social media sites, Facebook denied accusations that it was collaborating with the government. The same day, Istanbul’s Police Department’s Security Branch announced that they have launched an investigation into twitter messages on the Gezi Park resistance. To sum up, the government continues to jeopardise the constitutionally embedded human rights of both freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, particularly in monitoring social media platforms and banning anyone from entering Gezi Park for two weeks.
  • 2. Act of leaving carnations Turkish police have used water cannons, teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the thousands gathering with carnations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Saturday in memorial of the four people killed during recent anti-government protests. The police attacked people on the ground claiming that they were blocking the traffic and have taken 27 people into custody. Hundreds, including children, have been injured. The Governor of Istanbul, Hüseyin Avni Mutlu stated that “it was not about leaving the carnations, but about the illegal act itself”. To watch the video on these incidents, please click: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cju61E2LkhY No justice for Sarısülük Ahmet Şahbaz, the police officer who shot protestor Ethem Sarısülük dead during a demonstration in Ankara was released on a pending trial by the Ankara 13th Criminal Court of Peace. The judge Mustafa Aydın claimed: “I made my decision according to the evidence. I have a clear conscience”. Ahmet Şahbaz claimed that he was “afraid to be lynched”. “We will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights”, said Kazım Bayraktar, the lawyer of the Sarısülük family, following the judge’s decision. The head of the Investigation of Officer’s Crimes Department, Zeki Ünalmaz, claimed via Twitter that he appreciated the court’s decision.
  • 3. Gezi Raid in Ankara: 23 in custody The police raided the houses and offices of people participating in the Gezi Park resistance in Ankara for the second time. 23 people were taken into custody following the raid on 23 different addresses. Signs for the Gezi Park resistance and the booklet made for Ethem Sarısülük were seized. The court limited access to the files of the suspects and their lawyers on the grounds that they are members of an illegal armed terror organization. 22 people out of the 26 arrested were taken into custody following the previous raid operation in Ankara. Using a book as evidence of crime To demonstrate the arbitrary nature of police actions, a book seized during the raids, titled Communication and Imperialism: The Economy and Politics of Telecommunication in Turkey, has been used as evidence of criminality. 22 people have been sent to Sincan prison under the charge that they are members of an illegal organisation. Fear over filing a criminal complaint B.Ö, a Gezi Park demonstrator targeted by police violence in an underground car park in Antalya said he will not be filing a criminal complaint against the police officers. He claimed that: “my father is a police officer, and will be retiring in a couple of years. If I file a criminal complaint, I may be damaging his career.” The young girl E.S.O., who had suffered from police violence with her two other friends, said that she would not file a criminal complaint against the police, for fear of too much public attention. To see the video of police violence in the parking lot, please click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlFx10H_IK0
  • 4. The spokesman of Taksim Solidarity Platform sent to Gaziantep (!) Tayfun Kahraman, head of the Instanbul Chamber of Urban Planners, and spokesman of Taksim Solidarity Platform, the umbrella non-governmental organisation of the Gezi Park Resistance consisting of more than 120 institutions, chambers and foundations, has been sent to Gaziantep. He has been assigned to Gaziantep Heritage Council, with the task being conveyed on a written statement. Topbaş denies his previous statement: “I was speaking metaphorically” The Mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbaş denied his own words stating: “when I said we would consult with the citizens even in regards to the replacement of a bus stop, I was speaking metaphorically. For some projects we can consult with the citizens, for some others we cannot.”   The   events   of   Gezi   Park   have   led   to   people   gathering   in   other   neighbourhoods   to   express   their   opinions,  reinforcing  public  demand  for  greater  participatory  democracy.  The  government  must  take   this   very   seriously,   consulting   with   the   citizens   in   every   step   they   take.   Only   then   will   true   democracy,  rights  and  freedoms  be  realised.    
  • 5. BBC: It is unacceptable for our journalist to be directly targeted The BBC Global News director, Peter Horrocks issued a statement in response to the Twitter campaign launched by Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek against the established BBC Turkish service journalist Selin Girit. Horrocks expressed concerns over campaigns which target journalists in such a way. Gökçek urged his followers to condemn Girit by sending tweets with the hashtag #ingiltereadınaajanlıkyapmaselingirit ("Don't be an agent on behalf of England, Selin Girit"). "I demand everyone who loves their country to make this hashtag a trending topic. That way, our reaction will be heard abroad," the Ankara mayor said via Twitter. Facebook and Twitter users under investigation Following the statement of the Minister of Transport, Binali Yildirim, about Facebook providing information to Turkish government, FB stated that they "have not provided user data to Turkish authorities in response to government requests relating to the protests. More generally, we reject all government data requests from Turkish authorities and push them to formal legal channels. Only in the event of an immediate threat to someone’s life, or to a child, will we provide any data”. On the same day, the Istanbul Police Department’s Security Branch submitted a detailed report to the Prosecutor’s Office of 35 social media profiles for insulting state authorities, including Prime Minister Erdoğan. EU state Ambassadors’ meeting with the government Representing the first time in which EU state ambassadors collectively exchanged views with the Turkish government, the ambassadors issued a statement expressing their concern over the country’s recent developments, particularly in regards to police actions against peaceful protestors and respect for freedom of the press.
  • 6. Resignation of Wise Men Academic Murat Belge resigned from the Wise Men Committee for the Southeastern Anatolia Region. In a column published in the Taraf Daily on Wednesday titled “letter of resignation”, Belge criticized the government’s management of the three-week crisis and said that he has resigned from the Wise Men Committee. Prof. Baskın Oran also announced his resignation, because of both the Gezi Park events and the government’s failure to follow through with the second step of the Kurdish peace process, relating to regulation changes. After these resignations, on 26 June the Wise Men group presented their reports to Prime Minister Erdogan in a meeting at Dolmabahçe Palace. When confronted, Erdogan declared that “Gezi Park has no place in this meeting, please don't mention it in this framework.” 20th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre* Thousands gathered in Istanbul's Anatolian district, Kadıköy, to join the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Sivas Massacre. Kemal Bülbül, Chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Culture Association said that “the law case of the massacre has been barred due to time extension. We have to claim this history.” Bülbül also added that they don't accept the name given to the third bridge constructed over Bosphorus, Yavuz Sultan Selim. * Sivas / Madımak massacre, in which 37 people, mostly Alevis, were killed after an angry mob set a hotel building hosting an Alevi cultural conference on fire on July 2, 1993. A total of 33 artists and intellectuals along with two hotel workers and two assailants died inside Sivas' Madımak Hotel. The mob was protesting the arrival of atheist writer Aziz Nesin.
  • 7. “Resist Taksim, the Queers are with you!” The 21st LGBT Pride Week started with Trans Pride and the participation of tens of thousands marching from Taksim Square to Tünel. The main headlines of the press statements were “Long live the brotherhood of Gezi Park, long live the brotherhood of parks” and “The freedom of the trans people will free the whole society”. Artists and politicians such as Binnaz Toprak, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Eren Keskin, Füsun Demirel, Melda Onur, Ayça Damgacı, and Derya Karadaş all joined the march. 7 years belated release A Turkish citizen, Hasan Yağız who had been arrested in Izmir in 1991 and given a life sentence for alleged involvement illegal activity, has just been released after 22 years – 7 years later than the expected 15 years. This delay is the result of a simple and unfortunate mistake which could easily have been fixed, had the authorities not ignored the multiple demands to do so. As can be seen in Transitional Article 4, Part 5 of the Law on the Fight against Terrorism: “The conditional release will be available to these convicts without their application or irrespective of their status of good conduct when they complete 20 years of their sentence if there are death sentences against them, 15 years if they are sentenced to lifetime imprisonment and one-third if they are sentenced to other personal freedom-restricting punishments”. Furthermore, Mr. Yağız had been on the Human Rights Association’s list of “detainees with serious health concerns in need of immediate release” but every request he made to the authorities was refused.
  • 8. The E.A. case: one suspect has been arrested E.A was raped in Bingol 2 years ago, when she was just 16. The Court, however, had originally rejected to arrest the eight suspects in the case, all of whom were officers, because there was no change in the evidence situation. The demand for the lifting of the “secrecy” decision was rejected because there was again no change in the evidence and also considering the nature and the features of the crime. The victim’s lawyer Canan Çakabay and the Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Şahin, however, have just announced that one of the suspects, has finally been arrested: “As the result of our involvement in the case and our objection to the court decision, one of the suspects has been arrested again,” wrote Fatma Şahin on her Twitter account. “Strip searching in custody is torture” Seven women who were taken into custody on 31 May during the Gezi Resistance were exposed to an unlawful naked body search by a female police officer. The lawyers stated that the involvement of a female officer does not change the fact that this is an act of torture, highlighting the violation of Article 94 of the Turkish Penal Code: “Any public officer who causes severe bodily or mental pain, or loss of conscious or ability to act, or dishonours a person, is sentenced to imprisonment from three years to twelve years”. Unlawful strip searches are considered as an act of torture in the form of sexual harassment and must not be condoned on any account. *****************************************************************************

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