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TÜRKIYE: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF GÜLEN CAMPAIGNER MUHAMMET ŞENTÜRK

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. 29/2023 concerning Muhammet Şentürk starting for the Government of Türkiye to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Muhammet Şentürk (Türkiye): Opinion No. 29/2023


DETAINED FOR ADVOCATING AGAINST DOMESTIC HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES


Muhammet Şentürk, a 31-year-old man from Türkiye, graduated from the Department of Business Administration at Karamanoğlu Mehmetbey University in 2014 and currently works as an adviser.


Following an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, Mr. Şentürk came under investigation by the Karaman Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for alleged membership in an armed terrorist organisation. He was apprehended at his residence in Sancaktepe, Istanbul, on November 11, 2016, by authorities from the Anti-terror Branch of the Istanbul Police Department, based on a warrant issued by the Karaman Public Prosecutor’s Office. After spending two days in custody at Pendik District Police Headquarters, he was transported 800 km to Karaman Province.


Upon appearing before the Karaman Magistrates Judgeship on November 17, 2016, Mr. Şentürk was informed that his detention was linked to involvement with the Fethullahist terrorist organisation, participation in protests against investigations into the Zaman newspaper, use of the ByLock application, possession of books by Fethullah Gülen, having an account with Bank Asya, and affiliation with the Akademi Gençlik Derneği group.


Reportedly, on March 29, 2018, the Karaman Assize Court sentenced Mr. Şentürk to six years and eight months in prison. Following several unsuccessful appeals and spending 48 months in Karaman M Type Closed Penitentiary Institution, he was granted probationary release on November 9, 2020, and completed the execution of his prison sentence on November 9, 2021.


Upon submission to the Working Group, it was noted that Mr. Şentürk had been arrested without any reasonable suspicion of committing any criminal offense whatsoever. It was also observed that Mr. Şentürk was detained for six days before he was first brought before a judicial authority. The Government has presented no reasons for this delay, although it had the opportunity to do so. Therefore, this was in violation of article 9 (3) of the Covenant and articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was concluded that Mr. Şentürk’s arrest and subsequent detention were arbitrary, falling under category I.


ACCUSED OF LINKS TO TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS AS A RESULT FROM HIS EXERCISE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION


Mr. Şentürk was arrested, charged, tried, and sentenced based on his alleged affiliation with the Fethullahist terrorist organisation. His participation in demonstrations aimed to criticise the judicial investigations targeting the Zaman newspaper and to express his political opposition to the Government peacefully. Furthermore, the Government failed to demonstrate that any permissible restrictions on freedom of expression, as outlined in article 19 (3) of the Covenant, and on freedom of assembly, as outlined in article 21 of the Covenant, applied in Mr. Şentürk’s case. The Working Group determined that his deprivation of liberty was arbitrary, 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.


Mr. Şentürk was convicted and sentenced to six years and eight months of imprisonment. The Working Group found a violation of the principle of equality of arms, as the defence was unable to question the prosecution’s witnesses, contrary to article 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant and articles 10 and 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rendering his detention arbitrary under category III.


Moreover the Working Group noted a pattern in Türkiye where individuals alleged to have ties to the movement are targeted based on their political or other opinions, in violation of articles 2 (1) and 26 of the Covenant and articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Subsequently, the Working Group concluded that the Government of Türkiye detained Mr. Şentürk based on prohibited grounds for discrimination, and thus his detention was arbitrary, falling under category V.


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the UN Working Group Against Arbitrary Detention considered that the detention of Mr. Muhammet Şentürk was arbitrary and fell under categories I, II, III, and V because her deprivation of liberty was in contravention of articles 3, 7, 9, 10, 11 (1), 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (1), 9 (3), 14 (3) (e), 19, 21 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


The Working Group considered that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to accord Mr. Muhammet Şentürkan enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.


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