Turkey: conscientious objector on hunger strike

Turkish conscientious objector Mehmet Bal has started a hunger strike, claiming that he was subjected to violence and pressure following his arrest June 8. The Istanbul branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association and Antimilitarist Initiative said in a press release that Bal was beaten and denied water or use of the bathroom as he was kept waiting for hours the night of his arrest. The statement called for his immediate release, and that those responsible for his mistreatment be held responsible. (BIANet, June 11)

Bal, who announced his conscientious objection during his nine-and-a-half month military service in 2002, was later acquitted of “disobeying orders and alienating people from military service.” His arrest by police in Istanbul’s Arnavutköy district apparently indicates that fresh charges have been brought against him. (BIANet, June 10) Bal had been tortured in military prison at Adana after his initial arrest in 2002, when he was charged under Article 155 (“alienating,” or spreading dissension). (WRI, Nov. 13, 2002)

In March, conscientious objector Ismail Saygi was arrested immediately after reading a press statement for the Solidarity Initiative in front of a school in Taksim, central Istanbul. He was taken to Istanbul’s Maltepe military prison, where he reported being tortured before his transfer to Sarikamis military prison in the east of Turkey.

Savda’s statement criticized Turkey for not keeping its commitment to the European Union Council of Ministers to enact a conscientious objection law. In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty in an appeal brought by conscientious objector Osman Murat Ülke. (BIANet, March 28)

See our last post on Turkey.