The case of the Turkish Psychiatrist Dr. Alp Ayan - IRCT Media Release, 22 April 2003

Trial against human rights defender is testing Turkey’s human rights commitment

The former Minister for Health in Denmark, and Social Democratic Member of the European Parliament, Torben Lund, will be present in Izmir, Turkey, on 24 April 2003 at the trial against Turkish psychiatrist and human rights defender Alp Ayan, charged for criticising the government. The trial was postponed at the last meeting in the criminal court on 30 December 2002.

At that time Mr. Lund described the postponement as an extremely disappointing outcome and an unfortunate signal from the Turkish authorities. "It is clear that there is still a long way to go before Turkey becomes a society founded on the rule of law with respect for human rights", Mr. Lund says.

IRCT Ambassador Inge Genefke will also be in Turkey to support Alp Ayan.
Dr. Genefke has been monitoring cases against Turkish health professionals and human rights defenders for many years, including the many court hearings in the case against Dr. Ayan.

The case against Dr. Alp Ayan must be considered a test of Turkey’s commitment to human rights following the decision at the EU Summit in Copenhagen in December 2002. The EU will closely monitor developments in Turkey to decide in December 2004 whether Turkey fulfils the criteria for EU membership so that a date can be set for negotiations.

Dr. Ayan who is working for the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) at the organisation’s rehabilitation centre for torture victims in Izmir, was convicted on 10 June 2002 of a charge of 'excessive criticism of State authorities' under the recently amended article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code and sentenced to one year's imprisonment. This decision was on appeal.
Since June 2002, Dr. Ayan has appeared in court once in October, twice in November and once in December last year.

The "crime" he has committed is to criticise the Government of Turkey for torture and the conditions in the so-called "F-type" prisons for being inhuman. Since reliable and bona fide reports published in Turkey and abroad document systematic torture in Turkey, the case against Dr. Ayan is in itself a violation of the freedom of speech, and the decision in June documents that the Turkish penal code is not consistent with universally accepted rights to freedom opinion and expression.

During their stay in Turkey, Mr. Lund and Dr. Genefke will also meet the Chairman of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission of the Turkish Parliament, Mr. Mehmet Elkatmis, and visit prisoners who suffer after hunger strikes protesting against the use of F-type prisons.

The IRCT is an independent, international health professional organisation that promotes and supports the rehabilitation of torture victims and the prevention of torture through nearly 200 rehabilitation centres and programs around the world.

For further information, please contact IRCT Media Coordinator Poul Struve Nielsen, +45 33 76 06 49 and +45 23 34 55 09, or MEP Torben Lund and IRCT Ambassador Inge Genefke in Turkey, where they can be reached on + 45 20 96 06 25.

4th of April, 2003

Information and call

Dear Human Rights Defenders,

We previously informed you concerning the trials against our friend and psychiatrist of our Center in Izmir, Dr. Alp Ayan. One of those trials was opened because of a press conference of the 10th of January, 2001, in which Dr. Alp Ayan and a group of human rights defenders protested against the operations of security forces in prisons, the death cases and human rights abuses in the new F-Type prisons.

At that press conference Dr. Alp Ayan read a press statement on behalf of the group, in which the operations and the related death cases were called massacres, the Ministry of Justice and the Gendarmes were declared to be responsible. The State Prosecutor of Izmir decided that these evaluations were humiliating the Ministry of Justice and the Corps of Gendarmes. So, he filed a charge against Dr. Alp Ayan and the others on the basis of Turkish Penal Code, art. 159. The first two sessions of this trial took place during October and December of last year.

The third session of the trial will be on the 24th of April, Thursday, at the 1st Criminal Court of Izmir at 9.50 AM.

In the process of adaptation to EU, there were a couple of positive amendments towards democratization within the Turkish laws in recent times.
Nevertheless board members of human rights organizations, representatives of democratic institutions, writers and intellectuals, journalists, defenders of human rights and democracy were sued for crimes of expression.
(You may find a short list of those trials in the appendix). The trial against Dr. Alp Ayan is one of those.

The question of “freedom of thought and expression” is a problematic field in Turkey, while it is also one of the most important criterions for democratization. Trials like this are an indication of intolerance concerning the mentioned rights and cause congestion within democratic channels of reaction. From this point of view positive results in such trials are closely related with positive developments for democratization.
Therefore we would like to call all our friends and all individuals and institutions struggling for democracy and human rights to observe the trial and to support us in this matter.

We would also like to express our deepest gratitude for all the given support and solidarity so far.

Yavuz Onen
Some trials against human righst defenders based on “crimes of expression” within 2002:

  • Eren Keskin
    1. Anti-Terror Law, art. 8
    Based on a speech at a panel discussion held in 2001, concerning "violence towards women".
    2. Turkish Penal Code, art. 312
    Based on a speech at the conference "Women Rights – Human Rights" in 2002.
    3. Turkish Penal Code, art. 159. (2 trials)
    a) same speech at conference "Women Rights – Human Rights".
    b) statements given to a French newspaper.
  • Eren Keskin, Kiraz Bicici, Dogan Genc, Leman Yurtsever, Oya Ersoy Adaman, Mukaddes Alatas and Gulseren Yoleri, Turkish Penal Code, art. 482
    "Humiliation of Minister of Justice Hikmet Sami Turk" (acquitted).
  • Kiraz Bicici
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 169
    Based on statements given to Medya TV while operations in 20 prisons were carried out on the 19th of December 2000. (sentenced to 3 years and 9 months prison).
  • Akin Birdal
    1. Turkish Penal Code, art. 159
    Based on his statement "There was a genocide against the Armenians, Turkey has to apologize" on the 20th of October 2000, at a panel discussion in Germany.
    2. Turkish Penal Code, art. 169
    Based on a speech at the panel discussion "multi culture and human rights", organized by Human Rights Association (IHD) Diyarbakir section on 20th March 2001.
  • Sezgin Tanrikulu, Eren Keskin, Pinar Selek
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 159
    Based on speeches at the "Human Rights Symposium", organized by IHD Diyarbakir on 8th December 2001.
  • Mustafa Rollas
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 159
  • Alp Ayan, Mert Zengin, Ecevit Piroglu, Gonca Coban
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 159
  • Osman Baydemir, Kenan Cetin, Cafer Demir
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 312
    Based on speeches at the "Solidarity Evening" of IHD Elazig on the 21st of April 2001 (acquitted).
  • Ayse Batumlu, Adnan Gunes
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 312/1
    Based on a press statement concerning F-Type prisons on the 26th of December 2001.
  • Ayse Batumlu
    Turkish Penal Code, art. 159
    Based on press statements concerning prisons on the 24th of November 2001 and 19th of December 2001 (acquitted).




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