Call to deny extradition of two independent journalists facing politically motivated charges in Turkey

Open Letter, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Turkey

Lea la carta en español aquí

6 September 2017

Dear Mr. Andreu Merelles,
Dear Mr. Moreno Chamarro,

EuroMed Rights together with its members, the Federation of Associations for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights, the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia (IDHC), the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid (CEAR), and SUDS, would like to draw your attention to the case of Hamza Yalçin and Dogan Akhanli, respectively journalist and writer born in Turkey, members of the writers’ association PEN international.

Messrs Yalçin and Akhanli were arrested in Spain in August 2017 following an international warrant issued by Interpol and requested by the Turkish authorities. We are calling on your Court to deny their extradition to Turkey where they would be at risk of torture, ill-treatment, unfair trial or other serious human rights violations.

Hamza Yalçin, 59, a journalist based in Sweden who has dual Swedish and Turkish nationality, is the editor of the socialist magazine Odak Dergisi, critical to the Turkish government. Member of the Education and Solidarity Movement in Sweden, he is also involved in Amnesty International. He was arrested by the police in Barcelona on 3 August 2017, and is currently in pre-trial detention. German writer Dogan Akhanli, 60, who emigrated to Germany in 1991 after spending years in a Turkish prison following the 1980 military coup, was arrested on 19 August by police officers in Grenada while he was on vacation.

Our organisations believe that the charges held against Messrs Yalçin and Akhanli are politically motivated and that they aim at sanctioning their freedom of speech. If such charges are confirmed by the Turkish authorities, Spain should refrain from delivering these two intellectuals whose only ‘crime’ is to be critical of the government of their country of origin.

Their arrest occurs in a context where Turkey is being widely criticised for the crackdown on civil society and independent media since the July 2016 failed coup attempt. During its last field visit in January 2016, EuroMed Rights had already reported several restrictions to freedom of expression targeting independent media but also citizens on the internet. In April 2017, the constitutional reform combined with the renewal of the State of Emergency has put an end to the independence of the judiciary, by concentrating all powers in the hands of the President. On 25 April 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided to reopen the “monitoring procedure” on Turkey since “serious concerns” about respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law exist.

In this context, the potential extradition to Turkey of Messrs Yalçin and Akhanli would give international echo as well as a dangerous caution to unlawful repression currently ongoing in the country. This may also negatively affect all Turkish nationals living in Europe who will feel at risk of seeing their freedom of expression and opinion, and their freedom of movement curtailed.

The Spanish constitution clearly states that extradition cannot be invoked for political crimes. Moreover, Interpol member countries must comply with Article 3 of Interpol’s Constitution which forbids undertaking “any intervention or activities of a political character”. While Interpol has no effective mechanisms to prevent countries abusing the “red notice system”, it is known that abuses of Interpol are also affecting journalists and human rights defenders worldwide. In March 2017, the PACE released a report on the Interpol “red notice system” clearly mentioning Turkey among countries allegedly abusing of this system.

In this context, EuroMed Rights and its members join the call of other Spanish and international organisations that have already urged your Court to:

  • Deny extradition of Messrs Hamza Yalçin and Dogan Akhanli as they would be at risk of torture, ill-treatment, unfair trial or other serious human right violations in Turkey;
  • Carefully evaluate any extradition request coming from a country whose government is responsible for blatant human rights violations and curtailment of independent media.

We remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.


Yours faithfully,

Estrella Galán, Secretary General of CEAR

David Bondía Garcia, President of the Human Rights Institute of Catalonia (IDHC)

Elisa Veiga, President of the Federation of Associations for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights

Laia Ferrer Martí, President of SUDS

Michel Tubiana, President of EuroMed Rights