Turkish journalist, author and documentary maker Can Dundar, who had been working with passion and integrity for 40 years, has been stripped of his assets and declared a fugitive in Turkey. It was back in 2015 that Dundar was first arrested, following the publication of an article on the use of Turkish weapons by Islamist rebels in Syria. He was charged with various offenses including supporting a terrorist group, and became a victim of harassment, arrests and baseless accusations from the Turkish authorities.
His media work led him to be discredited, insulted and threatened by the Ankara regime, and then tried and jailed for “revealing state secrets,” while he was editor of the secular opposition daily “Cumhuriyet.” During his trial in 2016, someone attempted to shoot him in the Istanbul court.
After an intense campaign of international solidarity, Mr. Dundar was released and went into exile in Germany. In retaliation for his actions, and additional punishment inflicted on him and his family, his wife's passport was confiscated. They were forced to live apart for three years before she could finally join him in June 2019.
On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, the 14th Istanbul Criminal Court ruled to order the confiscation of all of Mr. Dundar’s property and freezing of his bank accounts, even though he was neither presented in court nor before the judges. Additionally, the Court ruled to confiscate all of his property, including the house where his mother lives. Following this decision, Can Dundar twitted: “The court confiscated 40 years of my work in 4 minutes.”
It is known that the ruling judge, Akin Gurlik, is closely aligned with Turkish President Erdoğan in court, as he is the same judge who followed and delivered verdicts against the opposition deputies Saladin Demirtas, the representative Vign Yukeskdag , representative Sri Suriya Onder (HDP), representative Innes Barbaroglu (Republican People's Party), the soldier Kanan Kvtangioglu, singer Atila Tass, and the journalist Bisra Aksoy. Many of the lawyers from the Association of Progressive Jurists also received severe sentences, including Murat Aksoy and Ebru Temtech, the latter of whom died last August 238 days after his hunger strike.
Opposition MP Ozgur Uzel described Judge Akin Gurlik as a "mobile guillotine" because he delivers Turkish President Erdogan's orders from court to court, handing down harsh prison sentences for any person who criticizes or opposes the authority.
As a reminder, the Brussels International Center (BIC) hosted Can Dundar in Brussels in November 2019 to participate in a major conference at the European Parliament, in partnership with MEP Frederique Rees, on EU-Turkish relations. There, Mr. Dundar expressed his regret for the deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey, and he underlined the importance of bringing together European and Turkish civil societies to fight against the tyranny of the Ankara regime.
Ahead of the European Council Summit (10-11/12), the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights (11/12) and the International Human Rights Day (10/12), the BIC has compiled a number of forward-thinking policy recommendations addressing EU policy-makers on how to define relations with Turkey.
- The BIC calls on European leaders, at their next Summit on 10-11 December, to take all possible measures, including further sanctions, to pressure the Turkish government to address these serious violations, and end interference in the national justice system. Turkey must stop the silencing and prosecution of dissidents, artists, athletes, and politicians, and the jailing of political prisoners.
- If Turkey squarely refuses to improve its rule-of-law situation for the sake of revamping the EU-Turkey Customs Union, this would be a major reason for EU political circles to prolong the standstill.
- The EU should investigate the continued allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment of Turkish journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey. Turkey remains the world leader in jailing journalists without a fair due process.
- The BIC calls on the chairperson of the European Parliament's Human Rights Committee, Ms Maria Arena MEP, to issue an explanatory statement ahead of the European Council Summit, on the current human rights situation in Turkey, according to recent data and reports, and the recent violations against a large number of students, journalists and judges who refused the orders of Turkish authorities.
- BIC calls on all human rights and international organizations to support victims of injustice and violations of journalists, lawyers and prisoners of conscience in Turkey, and to work diligently to put pressure on the Turkish government so that it stops violating human rights in such a shameful and unacceptable manner.