Kurdish expert detained for tweets proven to have no social media accounts

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İsmail Beşikçi

An author known for his work on Kurdish society was briefly detained on the grounds that his tweets were evidence that he was a member of an “armed organization” but was later released after it was proven that he had no social media accounts, the Ahval online news outlet reported based on a Gazete Duvar story.

İsmail Beşikçi, who has seen 32 of his 40 published books banned in Turkey, has spent a total of 17 years and two months in prison since his first incarceration in 1971.

“The Şırnak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation into İsmail Beşikçi in 2016 over tweets on social media under Beşikçi’s name and issued an arrest warrant on charges of membership in an armed organization,” Beşikçi’s lawyer, Levent Kanat, was quoted as saying.

“A search at his house was carried out yesterday while he was away, and today he was detained. He was released after testifying. The investigation is being carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office constitutional crimes investigation bureau.”

Kanat also said Beşikçi did not have any social media accounts.

Beşikçi criticized propaganda for the official ideology and sanctions aimed at academia in general and Kurdish society in particular in his academic work.

Wednesday’s detention of Beşikçi was the first since 1999, when he was freed from jail, although in 2005, 2007 and 2010 he faced a number of trials for writings critical of the military and in defense of Kurds’ right to self-determination. He has received over 100 years of imprisonment in total and fines of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars since the early 1970s because of his intellectual dissent from the Turkish state.

In 1970 he was dismissed from Atatürk University in Erzurum province where he got his Ph.D. before serving as an assistant professor. In the aftermath of the 1971 military coup, his lengthy ordeal in Turkish courthouses and jails began. Authorities banned 36 of 40 books he penned before a relative liberalization in the 2000s initiated at the behest of the European Union, which Turkey still aspires to join.

The Turkish government has investigated in excess of 39,000 and detained more than 3,000 social media users, and Turkish courts have arrested over 1,000 of them, according to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.

The report stated that police have conducted technical investigations into some 16,000 of these social media accounts and have launched legal investigations into 9,600 of these social media users. As a result police have detained over 3,000 social media users and remanded them to court. At least 1,000 of these detainees were arrested.

Moreover, scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in social media posts. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

A total of 1,080 people were convicted of insulting Erdoğan in 2016, according to data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Data also showed that 4,936 cases were launched against people on charges of insult in 2016. (Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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