Demand for Release of Turkish Human Rights Defender Murat Çelikkan

Murat Celikkan
Murat Çelikkan Co-Director of of Hafiza Merkezi (Truth Justice Memory Centre. Photo: Markus Junghard.

The Turkish human rights defender Murat Çelikkan, who is facing an 18 months’ prison sentence, has turned himself into prison after the Istanbul Regional Court rejected his plea. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the Court’s verdict which is a clear violation of Çelikkan’s right to freedom of thought and expression.

It was on Monday 14 August that the Hafıza Merkezi (Truth Justice Memory Centre) co-director Murat Çelikkan turned himself into prison after his plea was rejected by the Istanbul Regional Court. Previously, on 16 May, Çelikkan was charged and sentenced to 18 months of prison under the Turkish Anti-Terror Law for allegedly involving in terrorist propaganda.

The sentence was based on Çelikkan’s actions as a symbolic co-editor of the daily pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem when he was part of the Editor-in-Chief on Watch solidarity campaign. The press freedom campaign was launched on 3 May and included more than 100 participants, of which Çelikkan is the only one to have been sentenced to prison.

“The sentence is an obvious violation of Çelikkan’s right to freedom of thought and expression. The fact that the authorities tries to silence him based on his engagement in a campaign that supports press freedom and free speech is a clear example of how Turkey time and again fails to live up to international human rights standards,” said Goran Miletic, Director for Europe at Civil Rights Defenders.

The prison sentences of 18 other activists who engaged in the same solidarity campaign and tried with the same charges were deferred for two years. Meanwhile, Çelikkan’s sentence was neither reduced nor deferred as the court argued that “the defendant did not show sufficient remorse with his attitudes in the trial”.

“Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the imprisonment of Murat Çelikkan and this clear violation of his human rights. We urge the government of Turkey to release him as well as to immediately and unconditionally cease the widespread persecution and incarceration of journalists,” said Goran Miletic.