On May 22, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly arrested Selmir Mašetović, a Bosnian student at Uşak University, apparently based on accusations of alleged connections to Fethullah Gulen, an exiled muslim cleric who Turkish authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt in July 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.
Mr. Mašetović was among several foreign students studying in Turkey arrested on undisclosed charges for alleged connections to the Gülen movement. The evidentiary basis of his arrest reportedly included his alleged use of the encrypted smartphone application ByLock, which authorities claim was used by the Gülen movement to coordinate the coup attempt.
Mr. Mašetović’s family rejected allegations of connections to the Gülen movement and further reported that he was in Bosnia at the time of the coup attempt. In response to news of his arrest, local and national civil society organizations and individuals in Bosnia publicly called for his release.
On June 14, 2018, it was reported that Turkish authorities released Mr. Mašetović from detention; however, it is unknown whether he continues to face charges.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a student as a part of sweeping actions taken by the state against members of the higher education community. 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 opinion and expression, 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 victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.