On May 12, 2018, a Turkish court convicted 64 scholars and former members of the staff of Pamukkale University, in the city of Denizli, after they were charged with crimes relating to affiliation with a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The scholars reportedly received sentences ranging from eighteen months to eight years, nine months in prison.
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.
A total of 115 professors were arrested in total; 48 were acquitted, while charges against three remain pending as of this report.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary conviction and detention of scholars as a 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 State’s’ human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of association, due process and academic freedom, which are protected by international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 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.