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‘Terrorist propaganda’ charges against Fikret Başkaya must be dismissed (Demo)

His Excellency
R. T. Erdogan
President of the Republic of Turkey
The Presidential Complex of Republic of Turkey
Gazi, Cumhurbaşkanlığı Blv.
06560 Yenimahalle/Ankara

Dear Mr President,

The undersigned freedom of expression and human rights organizations worldwide are writing to you to call for the dismissal of charges against Turkish academic co-founder and president of Free University and writer Fikret Başkaya, and an end to similar unjustified charges against other Turkish citizens.

While your government declared an end to Turkey’s state of emergency last year, by independent estimates over 130 journalists and writers remain in prison in Turkey, while hundreds more are currently being tried on charges of ‘terrorist propaganda’ for what by international standards would be considered simple expression of their views.

Fikret Başkaya is among them. His next and perhaps last hearing is scheduled to take place at Ankara’s 21st Heavy Criminal Court on November 22, 2019. He is facing charges of ‘terrorist propaganda’ for a single critical article published in November 2016, and now faces imprisonment of up to five years.

As you know, Turkey signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights and ratified the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, in which article 19 guarantees the right to freedom of expression. Turkey is also a party to the the European Convention on Human Rights, whose article 10 similarly guarantees that right. Article 90 of Turkey’s Constitution affirms that such instruments duly ratified carry the force of law in Turkey. While these articles make allowances for limitations of that right in narrow circumstances, peaceful criticism of state policies, even harshly or offensively worded, cannot reasonably be said to meet these criteria, and is a normal and vital part of social debate in free and democratic societies.

Ending Fikret Başkaya’s prosecution and similar procedures against academics and writers as well as bringing anti-terrorism and defamation laws in line with international standards would be an important signal that Turkey takes these obligations seriously, and help to normalize its relationship with other Member States.

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