Leading Turkish human rights activist Murat Celikkan jailed

A journalist by profession, Murat Çelikkan is a veteran human rights activist from Turkey who took part in the establishment of main human rights organizations (Human Rights Association, Amnesty International Turkey, Citizens Assembly). He worked on the prevention of widespread and systematic torture, freedom of expression and press and assembly, refugee rights and on democracy and freedoms both as a journalist and an activist. He is currently the Co-Director of Hafıza Merkezi (Truth Justice Memory Center).

For the last 7 years he is working on enforced disappearances and the impunity of state actors for gross human rights violations. He is one of the founding members of the organization which created a database about verified cases of enforced disappearances and their alleged perpetrators. He is also known for his work on peace in general but especially about the Kurdish conflict in Turkey. He wrote several articles and made presentations about the officially denied Armenian Genocide in the context of facing the past and historical dialogue. He had graduated from Middle East Technical University and also is a fellow of the Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability Program (AHDA).

On May 16th 2017, Murat Çelikkan was sentenced to 18 months of prison sentence under the Anti-Terror Law to an alleged involvement in terrorist propaganda for his participation to the Özgür Gündem Editor-in-Chief on Watch Campaign. The charges were based on the content of news that were published during his one day symbolic acting as chief-editor. On June 6, 2017, the verdict was made a plea to the Istanbul Regional Court, which was rejected on June 20. Regional court decision is final and is closed for further appeal.

This verdict, based on Çelikkan’s involvement in a press freedom campaign, is an open violation of his right to freedom of thought and expression, and is totally unacceptable.

Murat Çelikkan’s prison sentence also goes against the principle of equality before the law. Özgur Gündem campaign had more than 100 participants, and Murat Çelikkan has been the only one convicted to serve prison time so far. Prison sentences convicted for other 18 activists who were tried with the same charges with Çelikkan were deferred for 2 years, but Çelikkan’s was not deferred on the basis that “he did not show enough remorse during the trials”.

Hafiza Merkezi condemns the policy of targeting Özgür Gündem and those who show solidarity with Özgür Gündem. Hafiza Merkezi is also concerned that Murat Çelikkan being singled out in clear discrimination is a signal of a new concept of targeting human rights defenders, after media workers and academy.

This information was collated from the Hafiza Merkezi website. More information can be found here.