Academic from Scottish university arrested in Turkey for criticizing Erdoğan

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An outspoken Aberdeen University academic has been arrested in Turkey for posting critical commentary online about the country’s leader.

Lawyer Hanifi Barış, who graduated from Aberdeen University’s Centre of Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law with a Ph.D. last year, was arrested by police in Istanbul on Wednesday for “posting items with criminal content on Facebook and Twitter accounts,” according to Scotland-based The Press and Journal.

Barış, who moved to Turkey after leaving Aberdeen last year to be with his wife and family, could be put behind bars for up to four years for speaking out against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Aberdeen University graduate, who previously practiced law as an attorney for several years in Turkey and specializes in political theory, uploaded a number of articles denouncing President Erdoğan towards the end of June, when the Turkish leader secured victory in a national election.

Barış was due to return to Scotland in September as a keynote speaker at a convention of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law.

His academic colleagues at Aberdeen University launched a petition on Friday calling for his immediate release.

“Hanifi is a gifted, well-respected and dearly loved scholar and friend. We demand justice for our esteemed colleague,” the petition says.

Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North, said she would call on the UK government to put pressure on Turkey regarding the arrest.

“No one should be arrested for expressing a non-violent political opinion or using social media to discuss politics in a civil manner.

“Imprisoning academics is not the behavior of a democratic or respectful government, and Turkey must recognize how wrong this is and free Dr. Barış,” she said.

Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson added: “It is worrying to hear reports that this graduate of Aberdeen University has been detained in Turkey.

“I will be following this case as closely as I can, and I hope that we will hear some positive news soon.”

The petition calling for the release of Baris can be viewed at

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  1. He’s a lawyer? Who practiced in Turkey? Then he should have known that it’s against the law to “insult” a member of Parliament in Turkey. It’s an unfortunate law but there it is. He must have known he was taking a huge risk. I couldn’t find any info on What exactly he said about Tayyip Erdoğan. If he called him names like ‘dictator,’ or even worse, accused him of crimes, then the law could swing into action, and he must have known that. So, I’m sympathetic, but I didn’t sign the petition.

  2. You tend to get these “huge risks” in tyrannies, which are enabled when people do not speak out. I will sign the petition and I hope he is released.

    • I prefer to know what the content of his posts is, before I decide to support his cause. I’ve seen Turks post content that would be considered defamatory even here in the West before. It’s clear to me that the understanding of the difference between ‘free speech’ and libel is shaky on both sides in Turkey. I’m no fan of Erdogan’s; I think he is a monster, really, a monster, but if you live there, you have to be a little bit smart, and take your cue from survivors like Meral Aksener. Otherwise, you’re just going to cause your family immense suffering, make a lot of trouble for your friends, and accomplish nothing. I agree that Erdogan and his supporters are tyrannical.

  3. See this? This is exactly what I’m talking about. It insults the President and accomplishes nothing. Who does it profit, to call him all sorts of an animal? It’s a stupid placard, will accomplish nothing, and just break their families’ hearts. It’s not defamatory in the Western sense, but it’s clearly abusive and, let me just say it again, insulting. That’s the law in Turkey. It’s a rotten law, of course, but until it can be changed, they should try to be a little bit more intelligent about flouting it. If they don’t like it, then they should have tried hard to get Muharrem İnce elected; he promised to get rid of the law if he was elected.

  4. I recall an AKP supporter during the election calling Ince “a dog of America”. Why is she not in jail? Is it because the only persons in Turkey you cannot insult are Tayyip Erdogan and his close followers? You also seem to assume that trying hard to get Muharrem Ince elected was the solution. Well, 90% of the media in Turkey are pro-Erdogan, not far off the state of affairs you would get in a dictatorship. His appointees also run the election board and there have been numerous complaints about how elections have been conducted in recent years – opposition ballots found dumped in garbage tips, opposition supporters threatened and sometimes arrested by police or gendarmes, etc. Erdogan’s extreme sensitivity to expressions of dislike are not going to make people who dislike him any less hostile – Macbeth in the Shakespeare play is a tyrant but he is aware that he is the target of curses “not loud but deep”. And it is the same with Erdogan.

    • You are right in everything you say, of course. Nobody’s more guilty of hate speech than Tayyip Erdogan is, by any standard except the AKP’s own and of course Devlet Bacheli’s. But I think I have not made my point clear enough to you: it’s not about what’s right. It’s about what’s going to get you arrested in Turkey, with no profit to anyone. I see your point of view, but I don’t share it, Steve. It’s all too easy to cheer on people when you yourself are safe from persecution, writing in some far-off country. Reminds me of what the CIA did with respect to Tienanmen Square. Cheered the protesters on to their doom, and then ditched them.