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Title: Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Professor Kemal Guruz of Turkey
Publication: SAR Press Release
Author: Scholars at Risk
August 06, 2013
Scholars at Risk Network is concerned over reports that Professor Kemal Gürüz, a scholar of chemical engineering, was convicted on August 5, 2013 in the so-called Ergenokon trial.
SAR asks for letters, faxes and emails respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to ensure a prompt review of the proceedings for consistency with Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial. As we are confident that such review will lead to the reversal of the conviction as to Professor Guruz, we further urge that these concerns be raised with appropriate officials with the hope of securing dismissal of any remaining charges in any actions still pending, and in the meantime the ordering of Professor Guruz’s release from detention, perhaps on humanitarian or medical grounds.
Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 320 higher education institutions in 35 countries dedicated to promoting academic freedom and constituent freedoms of thought, opinion, expression, association and travel. In cases like that of Professor Gürüz, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, Scholars at Risk intervenes hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably. Professor Gürüz is the former rector of Karadeniz Technical University in Trabzon, and a retired professor of chemical engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. He served as president of Turkey’s Council of Higher Education and the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council. Scholars at Risk understands that the charges against Professor Gürüz relate to his alleged involvement in the so-called 2007 Ergenekon coup, a case that began more than four years ago and included 275 defendants, 66 of whom have been imprisoned for more than four years. We are concerned that the case has been rife with irregularities, raising questions about adherence to domestic and international standards of due process and fair trial. This includes reports that the court allowed testimony from approximately 40 secret witnesses for the prosecution, while not allowing the accused to call any witnesses in their defense, and reports that judges who expressed the intention to release the accused pending trial were reassigned or forced to resign. As to Professor Guruz himself, we understand that despite an indictment reported to be thousands of single-spaced pages supported by tens of thousands of pages of alleged documentary evidence, no paper or other evidence showing Professor Gürüz’s involvement in any violence or conspiracy to use force has been shown. He denies all the charges against him.
Meanwhile, Professor Gürüz has been detained in Sincan prison in Ankara since June 25, 2012 on charges related to a different case, involving the political transition in Turkey in 1997. According to reports, that case also involves allegations of conspiracy to overthrow or incapacitate the government by force or violence. Scholars at Risk has written previously about that case, including on July 24, 2012, December 17, 2012, and June 20, 2013, raising in particular our concern that the prolonged detention of Professor Gürüz seems to lack any reasonable basis, as he is neither a threat to public order nor a flight risk, since he voluntarily presented himself to the court when called from abroad. We are additionally concerned that pre-trial detention is especially inappropriate where no trial date has been set and a first hearing date has only recently been established. Meanwhile, we understand that his prolonged detention, combined with the opacity of the pre-trial process, has driven Professor Gürüz to despair, resulting in a suicide attempt on June 14, 2013.
Absent any additional or contrary information, the facts as described appear to indicate that Professor Gürüz’s has been charged, detained and now convicted as a result of nonviolent expressive activity, conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory, and the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is party. We are particularly concerned by suggestions that the repeated prosecutions of Professor Gürüz stem from his many years of work actively promoting reforms in Turkish higher education, including his advocacy of a Western-oriented higher education policy and support for international higher education exchanges between Turkey and other nations. It is precisely through these partnerships, many of which Professor Gürüz personally helped to establish, that many members of the international higher education community have come to know and respect Turkish higher education institutions, professionals and students. The suggestion that somehow Professor Gürüz is being prosecuted based on these efforts is disturbing and risks eroding Turkey’s otherwise much deserved positive reputation in the sector.
Considering all of the above, as well as Professor Gürüz‘s many years of service to Turkey as a higher education leader and scholar, we again respectfully urge the appropriate authorities to intervene in this matter to ensure a prompt review of the recent conviction and to guarantee adherence to Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial. Again believing that such review will lead to the reversal of the conviction as to Professor Guruz, we further urge that these concerns be raised with appropriate officials with the hope of securing dismissal of any remaining charges in any actions still pending, and in the meantime the ordering of Professor Guruz’s release from detention, perhaps on humanitarian or medical grounds given his already extensive detention and his obvious mental and physical frailty. Finally we implore the appropriate authorities, pending his earliest release, to ensure Professor Gürüz’s well-being in custody, including access to counsel of his choosing, family and all necessary medical care.
Scholars at Risk invites letters, emails and faxes be sent:
- respectfully urging the appropriate authorities to ensure a prompt review of the recent conviction and to guarantee adherence to Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process and fair trial;
- given Professor Gürüz’s already extensive detention and his obvious mental and physical frailty, respectfully imploring appropriate authorities to seriously consider dropping the remaining charges in any actions still pending against Professor Gürüz or, at least, allowing release on humanitarian or medical grounds; and
- pending his earliest release, respectfully urging appropriate authorities to ensure Professor Gürüz’s well-being in custody, including access to counsel of his choosing, family and all necessary medical care.
PLEASE WRITE TO:
President Abdullah Gül
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği
06689 Çankaya, Ankara
Fax: +90 312 470 13 16
Mr. Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Fax: +90 312 419 3370
The Honorable John F. Kerry
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520, USA
The Honorable Navanethem Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
The Honorable _________
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to [YOUR COUNTRY]
(See http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkish-representations.en.mfa for a list
of Turkish embassies worldwide.)
The Honorable _________
Ambassador of [YOUR COUNTRY] to the Republic of Turkey
Scholars at Risk
New York University
194 Mercer St., 4th floor
New York, NY 10012 USA
Fax: +1 212 995-4402
To view a model letter of appeal, as well as a copy of SAR's letter, please visit: http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu/Education-Advocacy/Alerts-Scholars-in-Prison.php