An esteemed Public Health Professor is in Prison since 9th February 2018! #FreeOnurHamzaoğlu

Yazar / Referans: 

Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoğlu was detained on 9 February and arrested on 17 February. He remains in Sincan Prison in Ankara. He has been deprived of his freedom since 9 February 2018. He was taken from his home by security forces while not convicted or wanted for any offence.

Who is Prof Dr. Onur Hamzaoğlu?

Hamzaoğlu is MD and professor in public health. He is a publicly-known scholar for his efforts in the field of public health and also for democratic progress in society. In particular, his scientific study on the adverse effects of industrialization in the Dilovası region, east of Istanbul, conducted in 2011, had broad repercussions countrywide. He detected heavy metals in the breast milk of mothers and in the first stools of babies in the region. For this particular research and the findings he presented to the public, he was targeted by the local administration, central government and industry. He was accused of provoking panic among people and was called a “charlatan” by the mayor of Kocaeli. Long years of administrative and legal investigations between 2011 and 2014 were carried out against him, meanwhile he received strong support from professional associations, unions, civil society and the local population. He finally proved his innocence.

He is one of the academics known as the “Academics for Peace”. As an Academic for Peace, he was dismissed from faculty membership at the Public Health Department of the Faculty of Medicine at the Kocaeli University, on 1 September 2016 with the declaration of decree law (KHK) no.672.

Prof. Hamzaoğlu is the editor of the periodic scientific journal of the Turkish Medical Association, “Toplum ve Hekim/Society and Physician”. At the same time, since November 2016, he has been one of the two co-spokespeople of HDK, the Peoples’ Democratic Congress, a union of numerous left-wing political movements, organizations and parties in Turkey, which in 2012 established the HDP, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, the second largest opposition party in the current parliament.

What happened to Prof. Hamzaoğlu?

Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoğlu was detained on 9 February and arrested on 17 February. He remains in Sincan Prison in Ankara. He has been deprived of his freedom since 9 February 2018. He was taken from his home by security forces while not convicted or wanted for any offence.

The reason for his imprisonment was the press statement made jointly by nine organizations on 4 February 2018 with the title “We Stand with the People of Afrin.” It was a joint statement made by nine different political parties and platforms against the intervention of the Turkish army in Syrian land, the Afrin province, a statement that  stood for non-intervention and for a politics of peace. The press statement drew attention to the humanitarian problems the intervention could lead to and emphasized the right to live in peace, which should never constitute an offence.

However, the Public Prosecutor associated this statement with the offence of “openly inciting people to hatred and enmity and propagandizing for the terrorist organization”.

As stated above, Prof. Hamzaoğlu is a co-spokesperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress, one of the organizations undersigning the joint declaration mentioned. A lawsuit was brought against the 11 individuals representing these organizations. Nine of these representatives have already been released and are pending trial without arrest. The decision for the arrest of Onur Hamzaoğlu is in violation of the Law on Criminal Procedure which establishes the rules for the adoption of such decisions, and also against the European Convention on Human Rights and court jurisprudence.

Further, as far as its justification is concerned, it is contradictory, devoid of consistence, and of a nature that seriously damages the sense of justice and judicial conscience. In fact, the Public Prosecutor has already asked for the release of Hamzaoğlu stating that the conditions that render arrest necessary are absent. The unjust nature of Hamzaoğlu’s arrest has become fully visible upon the demand of release by the Public Prosecutor conducting the investigation. The court, however, insisted on imprisonment, going against the law and regulations regarding the detention and arrest of persons.

What’s next?

Prof. Hamzaoğlu is an academic and a person of enlightenment seeking peace, public health and a decent life both in Turkey and across the world through democratic ways and methods, having conducted many scientific and academic studies in his fields of specialization throughout his career. Freedom of expression is under the protection of international legal norms, and that includes the expression of views criticizing the use of armed force, standing against all forms of violence and asking for the ensurance of the right to a peaceful life.

The case will be heard by the 29th Criminal Court of Ankara, and the first hearing will be held at 10 am on 19 July 2018 at the Sıhhiye Courthouse in Ankara at the Courtroom of the Ankara 11th Criminal Court.

What Can You Do?

Be our voice! Spread the word for public health, peace and academic freedom, the values Onur Hamzaoğlu defends! Send representatives to witness the trial! Make this case visible in the agenda of the international community!


Photo Credit: Evrensel