The Observatory has been informed about the release and ongoing judicial harassment of 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 the appointment of rectors by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan1.
On January 7, 2022, the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance ordered the release on probation of Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen pending trial, and imposed them an international travel ban, after three months of arbitrary detention. Messrs. Gök and Özen face 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.
The İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance scheduled the next hearing in their case for March 21, 2022. Nonetheless, on January 17, 2022, the court held a private hearing with the Boğaziçi University rector, Mr. Naci İnci, and a group of university security guards, who requested to intervene in the trial in order to join the proceedings as a complainant party in the case. Messrs. Berke Gök and Perit Özen were not informed about this private hearing nor their attorneys, thus violating the defendants’ rights to a fair trial as enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court will decide on the intervention requests of rector Naci İnci and the security guards on March 21, 2022.
The Observatory recalls that Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen were violently arrested together with a group of eight other Boğaziçi University students on October 5, 2021, as they were participating in a peaceful protest in front of the Boğaziçi University rectorate building. 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, Messrs. Gök and Özen were placed in solitary confinement in Metris Prison. On October 26, 2021, they were transferred to high-security Silivri Prison, and one month later, 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”. Both students were denied correspondence with their relatives while they were detained in Silivri Prison. Moreover, Ersin Berke Gök was not provided with food compatible with his diet for the duration of his detention.
The Observatory condemns the ongoing 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 in the country 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 drop all charges against 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 drop all charges against 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 other human rights defenders in Turkey;
iii. Guarantee Ersin Berke Gök and Caner Perit Özen’s rights to due process and fair trial during the judicial proceedings in their case;
iv. 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.