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 05, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Düzce University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 5, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly detained Hakan Özhan, a professor of medicine at Düzce University, based on alleged connections with Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Following the coup attempt, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, and remains in effect as of this report. Authorities allege that members of a movement led by Mr. Gülen are 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 5, authorities raided Professor Özhan’s home, where they seized his computer, cell phone, and documents before detaining him. Reports indicate that authorities had issued a warrant for Professor Özhan in 2016; the evidentiary basis of the warrant has not been disclosed. As of this report, Professor Özhan is being held in Çilimli Prison.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention 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.