Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Peace academic and doctor Onur Hamzaoğlu released

Peace academic and doctor Onur Hamzaoğlu released

Onur Hamzaoğlu was in pre-trial detention for five months as part of a trial launched over a press statement critical of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin


Onur Hamzaoğlu, an academic and public health specialist, and socialist politician Fadime Çelebi were released 19 July by an Ankara court after five months in pre-trial detention over a press statement critical of Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Afrin. The statement was issued by the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), a union of left-wing and pro-Kurdish parties and organizations of which Hamzaoğlu serves as a co-spokesperson. Çelebi is the acting chairwoman of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), a member of the HDK.

Hamzaoğlu and Çelebi appeared before the 29th High Criminal Court of Ankara along with nine others for the first hearing of their trial where they face charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and enmity.’’ 

Five of the defendants who were not in pre-trial detention, Green and Left Future Party co-presidents Özlem Eylem Tuncaelli and Naci Sönmez, Democratic Regions Party (DBP) co-deputy chair Hacer Özdemir, Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP) co-chair Ahmet Kaya and Socialist Solidarity Platform co-spokesperson Kezban Konukçu Kok, attended the hearing. 

The four defendants who were recently elected to parliament from the ranks of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – HDK co-spokesperson Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, former HDP co-chair Serpil Kemalbay, SYKP co-chair Tülay Hatimoğulları and Revolutionary Party chair Musa Piroğlu – chose not to attend the hearing due to their parliamentary immunity.

The hearing, monitored by the courtroom by P24, was followed by the European Greens, HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli, HDP and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, representatives from unions and labor organizations as well as academics dismissed from their jobs by emergency decree for signing a peace petition in January 2016. In its interim ruling, the court also ordered to remove judicial control measures and travel bans imposed on the defendants. The next hearing was scheduled for 16 January, 2019.

‘’War is a preventable public health issue’’ 

In his defense statement Hamzaoğlu told the court that the statement issued on 4 February on which the allegations are based aimed to prevent deaths during a military operation in Syria. The number of deaths, destruction and internal displacement caused by the operation proved that the statement was right, Hamzaoğlu said. 

“I am a doctor and I know what people need to do to avoid diseases. Given the death, injuries and ecological disaster they cause, wars are a public health issue,” Hamzaoğlu told the court. “And because they are created by humans’ own hands, they are a preventable public health issue,” he added.

Hamzaoğlu, who was also dismissed from his academic position at Kocaeli University for signing a peace petition on January 2016 against Turkey’s military operation in the southeast, said people should stand against wars for the reasons he mentioned and more. “How? The first measure is peace,” he said. Hamzaoğlu finished his statement saying: “Standing against wars, fighting for peace is an obligation if the human being of the 21st century is to remain human. I want to remain human.”

For her part, Çelebi told the court that she would continue to ask for peace even if she were convicted “not to five months, but to 5000 years.” “This is an unlawful trial,” she said.

Lawyers stressed that a measure of pre-trial detention for the charges in the indictment lacked of legal grounds. After each lawyer submitted their defense, the court ordered the Hamzaoğlu and Çelebi’s release amid loud shouts of applause in the courtroom.