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The case of the Turkish Psychiatrist Dr. Alp Ayan - IRCT Media Release, Copenhagen 17 February 2004

Harassment of Turkish human rights defenders and health professionals leads to imprisonment

The IRCT is deeply concerned about the sentencing to imprisonment of several members of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), Izmir.

On February 13, 2004, after a four-year trial, Dr. Alp Ayan was sentenced to 18 months and one day in prison, and Mrs. Günseli Kaya, together with the other 28 defendants, to 18 months in prison. Another defendant, Mr. Adnan Akin was sentenced to three years in prison. The rest of the defendants (37) were acquitted. The defendants are planning to appeal the convictions.

"The IRCT is seriously concerned about the safety of the defendants.

Torture is widespread in Turkey, and the harassment of human rights defenders seems to be the order of the day. The IRCT knows that human rights defenders have previously been subjected to torture in Turkish prisons" says Dr. Bhogendra Sharma, President of the IRCT, and President of the CVICT, Nepal.

The defendants were prosecuted for having attended the funeral of Nevzat Ciftci that took place on 30 September 1999. Mr. Ciftci was one of the prisoners killed during the military operation in Ankara Ulucanlar prison on 26 September 1999. The defendants were charged with "attacking the gendarmes with stones and bottles" and "resisting and opposing through violent means" pursuant to Articles 32/1 and 32/3 of the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations. According to testimonies, the gendarmerie had set up barricades at the village entrance and violently attacked the group to prevent them from attending the funeral.

At least 69 individuals were arrested, beaten and detained, and 14 individuals were remanded, including Dr. Alp Ayan and Mrs. Günseli Kaya who then spent 4 months in detention.

This spring, Dr. Alp Ayan is appearing in court in three different cases against him. These cases would probably never take place in any European Union member-state. Neither would the case against nine executive board members of the HRFT, who are charged with "having collected contributions without obtaining permission" and "co-operating with international organisations without permission".

Most of these cases have been postponed time and time again and sent from one court to another, resulting only in fear and insecurity for the human rights defenders who are the targets of these absurd charges.

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2001, he declared zero tolerance towards torture. However, not one single case has been filed against the perpetrators while Mr. Erdogan has been in office.

In 2003, nearly 1,000 victims of torture (924 men, women and children) received treatment at the HRFT, and the figure for 2002 was approximately the same. This indicates that nothing has changed to the better, on the contrary. The prison sentences to Mrs. Günseli Kaya, Mr. Adnan Akin and Dr. Alp Ayan are a clear signal from Turkey to the rest of the world that the human rights situation in Turkey has gone from bad to worse.

For further information, please contact IRCT media co-ordinator Poul Struve Nielsen, +45 23 34 55 09. IRCT Ambassador Dr. Inge Genfke can be contacted on: +45 20 96 06 25

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