Dark Days Ahead: Thinking about Turkey’s Tear Gas Purchase

A television capture of raid in June

A television capture of raid in June

I have been going over a number in my head these past few days.  1.9 million.  That, according to Amnesty International, is the number of tear gas canisters and gas grenades that Turkey has ordered from a South Korean manufacturer for 2015.

Given the sorry record of Turkish security forces misusing such weapons, Amnesty has issued an urgent plea to the South Koreans, asking them to suspend the sale.  After all, Turkish police routinely – and illegally – use tear gas canisters as projectiles, often resulting in serious injury and sometimes, as in the case of Berkin Elvan, fatally.  During the Gezi protests of 2013, hundreds and perhaps thousands were injured in this way. In its landmark report on the Gezi crackdown, Amnesty notes:

Police officers were repeatedly seen firing tear gas canisters horizontally at suspected demonstrators as a weapon. A significant proportion of persons injured at the scene of demonstrations received injuries through being struck by gas canisters, many of them fired at close range. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey reported to Amnesty International that of the applications for rehabilitation made to their foundation, 60% were due to injuries caused by gas canisters…

Berkin Elvan

Berkin Elvan

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Posted in Amnesty International, Erdogan, Excessive Force, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Park, Press Freedom, Taksim, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Çarşı on trial: Turkey’s war on dissent takes a tragicomic turn

2006-05-24_143203_carsiIt would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.  In their determination to root out all opposition, Turkish authorities today called members of the soccer fan club, Çarşı, to court under the same broadly phrased anti-terror statutes that were employed against members of the Gülen movement on Sunday and against countless others in recent years.

There are many things that one can say about soccer fans, but the idea that they represent an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the state crosses into the realm of the absurd. 

There was a circus-like atmosphere to parts of the proceedings. Cem  Yakiskan, one of the group’s leaders, joked, “If we had the power to stage a coup, we would have made Besiktas champions” to applause and cheers in the courtroom. The prosecutor’s evidence for the indictment included the fact that one of the defendants ordered “meatballs and pizza” for people attending the protests.

Yet the absurdity of this court case should not hide the serious threat that such prosecutions represent. Continue reading

Posted in Amnesty International, Erdogan, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Park, Press Freedom, Taksim, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Amnesty: Arrests in Turkey continue pattern of criminalizing dissent

Police officers entered the building to detain Ekrem Dumanlı and were met by staff from the newspaper who held posters that read 'Free media can not be silenced!' (Photo: Today's Zaman)

Police officers entered the building to detain Ekrem Dumanlı and were met by staff from the newspaper who held posters that read ‘Free media can not be silenced!’ (Photo: Today’s Zaman)

In a public statement issued today, Amnesty International urged “Turkish authorities  to release journalists detained in a wave of arrests yesterday, unless they have credible evidence that they have committed a recognisably criminal offence.”

The statement noted with concern that the arrests had targeted “senior journalists in a section of the media that has played a leading role in covering allegations of corruption by government officials, [raising] serious questions about the authorities’ motivation for their detention.”

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Amnesty International calls on South Korea: Stop tear gas shipments to Turkey!

Amnesty International has issued an urgent call to South Korea to “stop the planned shipment of massive amounts of tear gas to Turkey, where the security forces have frequently abused riot control equipment amid repression of peaceful protests.”

© Eren Aytuğ / NarPhotos — with Safiye Karaer.  Used by permission

© Eren Aytuğ / NarPhotos — with Safiye Karaer. Used by permission

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Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Impunity | Tagged , , , , , ,

New wave of attacks target journalists in Turkey

News reports this morning describe large scale police operations across Turkey today.  The main target appears to be media associated with the influential Gulenist movement, once an important part of the AKP coalition, but, for the past year, targeted by President Erdogan as a treasonous “parallel state.

As journalist Yesim Comert tweeted this morning, Turkey has, with the arrests this morning, regained its position as “the country with the largest number of detained journalists in the world.”

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom | Tagged , , , ,

Compelling video updates story of Hakan Yaman, brutally beaten during the Gezi Protests

Amnesty International has released a compelling video interview with Hakan Yaman, who was brutally beaten during the Gezi Protests in 2013. The interview occurred during a tour of several European countries, which allowed Hakan to meet with Amnesty staff and activists, government officials, and participate in public events.

Hakan, the father of two,  is one of the thousands of victims of shocking police violence which Amnesty  described in its ground-breaking report on the suppression of freedom in Turkey during the Gezi protests. Mistaken for a protester, he was attacked by police who beat him, and dragged him on top of a street fire.  As a last piece of brutality, one police officer gouged one of his eyes out before leaving him for dead. Continue reading

Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Gezi Park, Impunity, Turkey | Tagged , , , ,

The Pinar Selek Case: The “Ground Hog Day Prosecution”

Bill Murray and unnamed groundhog in Groundhog Day (1993)

Bill Murray and unnamed groundhog in Groundhog Day (1993)

One of the great romantic comedies of my youth was Groundhog Day, the story of a misanthrope news reporter doomed to repeat the same awful day over and over again until he got it right.

The news today that a Turkish prosecutor has reopened the case against Pinar Selek  shows that the Turkish justice system is similarly caught in a tragic loop of bad choices.  With the prosecution once again demanding a life sentence for Selek, the judicial system doesn’t seem very close to getting it right either.

But that’s where the comparison ends.  There’s nothing funny about this continued judicial travesty.

Pinar Selek

Pinar Selek

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Posted in Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Urgent Action Issued in case of conscientious objector Haluk Selam Tufanlı [Updated 12 December]

Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action in the case of Haluk Selam Tufanlı, a conscientious objector who this week was imprisoned by a military court in Northern Cyprus after he refused to take part in a one-day military training in 2011.

Conscientious Objector  Haluk Selam Tufanlı

Conscientious Objector Haluk Selam Tufanlı

Tufanlı had already carried out his compulsory military service ‘under duress’ in 2009-10. In December, 2011, he declared his conscientious objection.  Since declaring his conscientious objection, he has refused to present himself every year for the mobilization call. Military court proceedings for his refusal to take part in the military training in 2012, 2013 and 2014 have not yet began.

Amnesty International considers Haluk Selam Tufanlı to be a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely on the basis of him exercising his right to conscientious objection to compulsory military service and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Take action NOW!

For information on how to take action in English, click here.

For information in Turkish, including an online mailing form, click here.

UPDATE 12 December 2014

Amnesty has received word that Tufanlı was released from prison on 12 December. No further action is required at this time.  Many thanks to those who sent appeals.

Speaking by phone to Amnesty, Tufanlı said:

The judge told me I have the right to a defence, which I used, stating my conscientious objection, and then disregarded my defence in his verdict. We will take this to the European Court of Human Rights….I am well, and confident in the fact that this struggle for recognition of conscientious objection as a right is taking place around the World and that one day, we will win.

Posted in Northern Cyprus, Prisoner of Conscience, Urgent Action | Tagged , , ,

The long, rocky road to justice in the case of Ali Ismail Korkmaz

page_ali-ismail-korkmaz-davasinda-4-tutuklama-istemi_174204089The fifth hearing in the killing of Ali Ismail Korkmaz will be held tomorrow, November 26, in Kayseri, Turkey.

Ali Ismail was a victim of the horrendous police violence that accompanied the suppression of the Gezi protests in 2013. In a statement to authorities before he died, he described the attack:

Five or six people came up to me, they beat me with clubs on my head, back, shoulder and legs. I fell to the ground….Yesterday I didn’t have difficulty in speaking, but today I can’t remember. One of my teeth is loose because of the incident. My head hurts, I have difficulty speaking. I don’t know who beat me or why. They were wearing civilian clothes. I want to make a complaint

Korkmaz was admitted to a hospital after making his statement, but soon fell into a coma. He died on July 10, 2013.

As Amnesty’s researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, described in a blog last winter, Turkish authorities seemed determined to undermine the quest for justice in the case. Following the attack, the Governor of Eskisehir said that police hadn’t been involved and that Ali Ismail Korkmaz had been beaten up ‘by his friends.’ Footage from a CCTV camera was deleted in the days following the incident, but was subsequently recovered by experts from the gendarmerie. Continue reading

Posted in Amnesty International, Andrew Gardner, Excessive Force, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Park, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , ,

Second hearing Taksim Solidarity: Puppet show

A guest blog from our colleague at Amnesty International – Netherlands on the most recent hearing in the Taksim Solidarity case:

It was like an ironic cartoon. We were some forty people brushing up against each other in the doorframe of the small courtroom, trying to peek inside as we were barred from going in by a red line and two nervous guards. The only ones allowed entering were lawyers in their shiny robes. The whole scene resembled a puppet show of a twisted sort. We could see the judge, the prosecutor, the defendants and the lawyers. All actors were playing out their roles, but we couldn’t understand a thing. The Turkish judicial system in a nutshell.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Park, Taksim, Turkey, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,