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TÜRKIYE: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF JOURNALIST AND WRITER ALI ÜNAL

The International League Against Arbitrary Detention urges the Government of Türkiye to take all the necessary actions to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 3/2023 concerning Ali Ünal starting for the Government of Türkiye to immediately and unconditionally release M. Ali Ünal and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Ali Ünal (Türkiye) : Opinion No. 3/2023


DETAINED BECAUSE HE WROTE COLUMNS AND BOOKS RELATED TO THE GULEN MOVEMENT


M. Ali Ünal is a Turkish journalist and writer. The Working Group noted that the fact that the Mr. Ünal wrote columns, appeared on television and wrote two books related to the Gülen movement cannot justify his arrest and detention. However, the Working Group has found a pattern over the past six years concerning the arrest and detention in Türkiye and abroad of individuals with alleged links to the Gülen movement, where the Government has alleged criminal activity by individuals on the basis of their engagement in regular activities without any specification as to how such activities amounted to criminal acts. The Working Group found that the present case followed the same pattern, where no evidence whatsoever have been presented to the Working Group that the journalistic activities of Mr. Ünal, could have been equated with being engaged in any kind of violent or terrorism-related activity.


Therefore, the Working Group considered that the basis for the arrest and detention of Mr. Ünal was the exercise of his freedom of expression and freedom of association, and thus found that Mr. Ünal’s deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, and falling within category II, as it resulted from his exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 19 and 21 of the Covenant.


Moreover, the Working Group found that the arrest and detenton of M. Ali Ünal was lacking any legal basis because the authorities did neither present an arrest warrant or equivalent document to Mr. Ünal, nor did they informed him of the reasons for his arrest, or of the charges against him, in violation of articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 9 (2) of the Covenant. Moreover, the Working Group noted that Mr. Ünal was not brought promptly before a judge, within 48 hours of his arrest, in accordance with the international standard, in violation of article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 9 (1) and (3) of the Covenant, rendering his detention arbitrary under category I.


SENTENCED TO 19 YEARS OF PRISON DESPITE BLATANT VIOLATIONS OF HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL


The Working Group emphasized that while no trial of Mr. Ünal should have taken place, Mr. Ünal was convicted and sentenced to 19 years and six months in prison. The Working Group found that Mr. Ünal was unable to disprove allegations against him as his personal mobile telephone had been confiscated and no copy was made, contrary to article 134 of the Criminal Procedure Act. He was also reportedly denied access to his case file and therefore unable to prepare his defence adequately or to disprove the charges against him, in violation of articles 10 and 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 14 (1) and (3) (b) of the Covenant. Therefore, the Working Group concluded that the violations of Mr. Ünal’s right to a fair trial were of such gravity as to give his detention an arbitrary character, under category III.


A DISCRIMINATORY PATTERN AGAINST INDIVIDUALS WITH ALLEGED LINKS TO THE GULEN MOVEMENT BASED ON POLITICAL OPINIONS


The Working Group noted that the present case joined a series of cases concerning individuals with alleged links to the Gülen movement that has come before the Working Group in the past few years, where in all of these cases the Working Group has found that the detention of the concerned individuals was arbitrary. A pattern is emerging whereby those with alleged links to the movement are being targeted on the basis of their political or other opinion, in violation of articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right and articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant. Accordingly, the Working Group found that the Government detained Mr. Ünal based on prohibited grounds of discrimination, and that his detention was thus arbitrary, falling under category V.


Last but not least, the Working Group has noted a significant increase in the number of cases brought to it concerning arbitrary detention in Türkiye. It expressed grave concern about the pattern that all these cases follow and recaled that, under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that the detention of Mr. Ali Ünal was arbitrary and fell under categories  I, II, III and V because the deprivation of liberty of Ali Ünal was in contravention of articles 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 9, 14, 19, 21 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended that the Government of  Türkiye take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of M. Ali Ünal without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, starting with his immediate release and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations.


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