On February 9, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly detained Professor Mehmet Ali Malas, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at İzmir Katip Celebi University in İzmir, along with seven other individuals on suspicion of alleged links to Fethullah Gülen, who authorities have accused of being involved with a violent coup attempt that occurred on July 15, 2016.
Following the July 15 coup attempt, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency, which has been extended multiple times, and remains in effect as of this report. 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.
Authorities have reportedly accused Professor Malas of using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application that Turkish authorities claim was used in connection with the coup attempt. As of this report, it is unknown when the authorities will schedule a hearing for Professor Malas and the other individuals, whose identities have not yet been disclosed.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a scholar and other individuals as part of sweeping actions taken by the State against higher education community members. 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.