European-based organization Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL) has presented before the Council of Europe the application of judge Murat Arslan, jailed president of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), for the 2017 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.
The prize, created in 2013, aims to reward outstanding civil society action in defending human rights in Europe and beyond.
Arslan was the last president of YARSAV before it was closed down by the Turkish government in the first decree issued in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15. YARSAV had been a member of MEDEL since 2006 and Arslan, who was arrested last October due to his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, was in his third term as president.
“During his mandates, Murat Arslan has had a fearless and courageous intervention in Turkish society, denouncing all the abuses that were increasingly being made by the executive and legislative powers against the rights of citizens and the independence of the judicial power,” said MEDEL in a written statement on its website. “His constant intervention in social media, newspapers and institutional forums was never stopped by the growing menaces that the Turkish government was directing to all those who defied the hegemonic power of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, that was threatening Turkish society.”
Reminding that YARSAV was administratively disbanded and Arslan, as well as thousands of other judges and prosecutors, was dismissed after the failed coup attempt on July 15, MEDEL stated: “Murat Arslan is now more than an individual person fighting for a democratic Turkey, in which human rights are promoted. He has become a symbol of all those that do not surrender and, even risking their own lives, fight for human rights and still believe that Turkish citizens have the right to live free and in a democratic state. A state that respects individual freedoms and guarantees free and equal access to an independent justice system that can enforce those basic human rights.”