On August 3, 2016, Turkish authorities reportedly arrested Candan Badem, a scholar of history at Tunceli University, on charges of “coup attempt” apparently in relation to his possession of a book by Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric accused by Turkish authorities of organizing the July 15 coup attempt. Two days prior to his arrest, Tunceli University reportedly suspended Professor Badem for three months.
Professor Badem was a signatory to the January 10, 2016 Academics for Peace petition, which urged the government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country. Shortly after the petition’s release, Tunceli University authorities opened a disciplinary investigation into Professor Badem. On August 1, just two weeks after the July 15 coup attempt, university officials reportedly ordered Professor Badem suspended for three-months on allegations of connections to Turkey’s Gülenist movement. On August 3, Professor Badem spoke with the press about the suspension, stating “I am an atheist and a Marxist. I wonder how they would make a Gülenist out of me.” Hours later, authorities arrested Professor Badem on “coup attempt” charges after conducting a search of his home and office, during which they reportedly found a book by Fethullah Gülen. The next day, the authorities released Professor Badem and issued him a travel ban.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary proceedings against and the arbitrary arrest of a scholar as a result of the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association – conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. State authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.