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Murat Arslan, imprisoned Turkish judge, wins Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017

Murat ArslanThe Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has announced in its plenary meeting held today in Strasbourg, France, that the winner of the 2017 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is Murat Arslan, a Turkish Judge, president of YARSAV, an independent Turkish Judges Association, imprisoned since 19th of October 2016.

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the PACE in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.

Murat Arslan was nominated for this prize by MEDEL – Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés, as well as by UIM – Union Internationale des Magistrats, with the support of the other international associations that form the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey – Judges for Judges and Association of European Administrative Judges.

Murat Arslan (1974, Ankara, Turkey) was elected President of the Executive Board of YARSAV in March 14, 2011. YARSAV, with almost 1800 members among judges and prosecutors, is the first and the most representative judicial association in Turkey​.

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. 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 Erdoğan, that was threatening Turkish society.

While he was President of YARSAV, he participated in the meetings of international organisations of Judges and Prosecutors (IAJ, MEDEL, EAJ) as representative of YARSAV. His intervention in Turkey was made in various channels: conferences, seminars, panel discussions, articles published in newspapers and magazines (Birgün, Evrensel, Cumhuriyet, Hukuk Defterleri), interviews to different newspapers (always focusing on the Rule of Law and the need to respect Human Rights and the Independence of the Judiciary). Murat Arslan also participated in civil society organisations: “Turkey is looking for justice movement” and “Resistance in Artvin Gold Mine”. He has had an active role in the observation of political trials organised by the Executive Power against İlhan Cihaner, Can Dündar & Erdem Gül, and Istanbul Bar Association's executive board member, Deniz Feneri.

Precisely because of his intervention as president of YARSAV, he was dismissed in August 03, 2015, by his post of assistant judge to the Constitutional Court and was appointed to the Chamber of Account, an appointment that was announced in newspapers with the title of “Exiled to the Chamber of Account”, clearly showing the political motivation of it.

After the attempted Coup d’État in July 2016, YARSAV was administratively disbanded – it was the first governmental decree announced after the declaration of state of emergency, in July 23, 2016 –and Murat Arslan was dismissed, as well as thousands of other Judges and Prosecutors. However, YARSAV still remains a member of Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés - MEDEL​, International Association of Judges (IAJ)​ and​ European Judges Association (EAJ).

He was arrested, while serving his third mandate as YARSAV president, in October 2016 and remains in prison until today, having been brought before a court only once, on 26 October 2016. Since then, he faced very difficult conditions of detention. Monthly reviews of detention are made only on paper, and detention is automatically extended without any Court hearing, in accordance with emergency legislation. Files are classified, and lawyers don’t have access to the file before the trial. Murat Arslan has been punished by the prison authorities, with no visiting rights for a month, for having written a letter to his wife criticising the situation.

The decision of the PACE to award the Václav Havel Prize to Murat Arslan is an extremely important signal for all those that still fight for Human Rights in Turkey.

Murat Arslan is 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.

Since the beginning of the brutal repression against civil society and the Judicial Power in Turkey, MEDEL has received countless cries for help from Turkey, which we publish today in the ebook attached to this press release.

However, nothing better in this day than to read the words of Murat Arslan himself, in the letter he wrote to his wife and by which he was punished:

“We could not leave a country to its fate, a country and its justice brought to ruin, and we did not. We left guide stones leading to salvation, leading back, at every corner. We will not step back. Today we are in exile, we are in chains, but this truth cannot change. The price we have paid can only strengthen our faith in better days and our resolution to resist. (…)Every night I go to sleep with hope in better days and inner peace, every morning I wake up smiling. The smile never left my face. In this regard, an idea crossed my mind. The history never wrote about any dictator who went to grave with a smile on his face, and never will.”

Attached: picture of Murat Arslan + speech written by Murat Arslan to thank the award + compilation of letters from Turkey.


Monday, October 9th, 2017.



Le Discours de Murat Arslan

Speech of Murat Arslan

MEDEL letters from the Turkish Judiciary 2017 - 2017

Murat Arslan PHOTO



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