The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and acts of ill-treatment against Messrs. Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, students at Boğaziçi University, in Istanbul, and participants 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 Erdoğan1.
On January 7, 2022, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen will appear before the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance for the first hearing in their case. They are facing 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 seizing transport vehicles” (articles 109, 265 and 223 of the Criminal Code, respectively) in connection with their participation in a peaceful protest in front of the Boğaziçi University rectorate building on October 5, 2021. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen remained detained in high-security Silivri Prison, in Istanbul, where they have been denied correspondence with their relatives. Since the beginning of his detention, Ersin Berke Gök has not been provided with food compatible with his diet.
On October 5, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and a group of eight other Boğaziçi University students were battered by university security guards as they were peacefully delivering a statement in front of the rectorate building. They were subsequently arrested by police officers and taken to the İstanbul Police Station. Three of them were released with judicial control measures, pending investigation.
On the same day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labelled the protesting students as “terrorists who infiltrated universities” in his speech delivered at the 2021-2022 Higher Education Academic Year Opening Ceremony. Moreover, rector Naci İnci submitted a complaint against the students before the prosecutor’s office on charges of “threat”, “insult”, “damage to property”, “preventing public duty” (articles 106, 151 and 265 of the Criminal Code, respectively) and “violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations”.
On October 6, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and five other students were taken to the Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse for interrogation at the prosecutor’s office. While four of them were released with judicial control measures, Ersin Berke Gök, Caner Perit Özen and another student were referred to the Istanbul 9th Magistrate Judgeship. Messrs. Gök and Özen were placed in solitary confinement in Metris Prison, in Istanbul, on charges of “preventing public duty” and “not complying with orders by the security forces for the dispersal of an unlawful demonstration”, and the third student was released with judicial control measures.
On October 26, 2021, Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen were transferred to Silivri Prison. On November 26, 2021, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor formally indicted them on charges of “not complying with orders by the security forces for the dispersal of an unlawful demonstration”, “deprivation of liberty”, “preventing public duty” and “hijacking or seizure of transport vehicles”.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen as well as the ongoing violations of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly documented by the Observatory in the report “A Perpetual Emergency: Attacks on Freedom of Assembly in Turkey and Repercussions for Civil Society”.
The Observatory urges the authorities of Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, and put an end to all acts of harassment -including at the judicial level- against them and all participants in the “Boğaziçi Resistance Movement”.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen and all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen, their detention being arbitrary as it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the access of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen to their family members and lawyers;
iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment –including at the judicial level– against Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen and all other human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
v. Ensure the respect in all circumstances of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly that is protected by both the Constitution of Turkey and international instruments ratified by Turkey, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
- President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül. Email: email@example.com.
- Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
- Ambassador Mr. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
- Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.