SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: September 08, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Afyon Kocatepe University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On September 8, 2016, Turkish authorities reportedly arrested Adnan Filya, a professor at Afyon Kocatepe University, based on allegations of connections with Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric authorities claim is responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. 

Authorities have alleged that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen were behind the coup attempt, and have taken a range of actions against members of the higher education community (among others) which they claim are intended to identify those parties involved, and/or to eliminate the Gülen movement’s influence within Turkish institutions. 

On September 1, 2016, Profesor Filya, along with 2,346 other academic personnel, were dismissed from their positions by order of a government decree (see report). One week later, the authorities arrested Professor Filya as part of an investigation into individuals accused of being members of the Gülenist movement. On March 2, 2017, a court convicted and sentenced him to 12 years in prison on charges of “being a member of a terrorist organization.” The evidentiary basis for his dismissal, arrest, and conviction has not been disclosed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary arrest, conviction, and sentencing of a scholar. While State authorities have a right to maintain order and respond to legitimate security concerns, such actions must comply with States’ human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of association, due process, and academic freedom, which are protected by 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 victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.