Detention of intellectuals and academics: Turkey keeps one activist under arrest, releases 12 others

Turkish authorities keep under arrest one of the 13 academics and intellectuals who were detained on Nov. 16, while releasing the others, the Associated Press said on Sunday.

Turkish police on Nov. 16 detained 13 academics and intellectuals over allegations of supporting mass anti-government protests in 2013 with links to a prominent jailed philanthropist, Osman Kavala.

Kavala is a businessman and civil society leader who has been in prison for more than a year without an indictment. He is accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who works at Istanbul's Bilgi University, has been arrested. Aksakoglu is also the country representative of the private Bernard van Leer Foundation for childhood development.

The two academics among the detainees were Professor Turgut Tarhanlı of Istanbul Bilgi University and Professor Betül Tanbay of Boğaziçi University. The detainees have links to Anadolu Kültür, one of Turkey's most-prominent pro-democracy NGOs.     

Tarhanlı, Tanbay and ten other detainees were released after they testified to police in Istanbul.

The United States was very concerned about Turkey’s detention of academics, journalists, and civil society activists with ties to the Anatolia Culture Association (Anadolu Kültür), the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

“We urge Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, association, and assembly, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to release those held arbitrarily,” The U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri protested the detentions on Twitter. “Another brutal assault on Turkish civil society with the arrests of prominent academics and the entire board of Osman Kavala’s Anadolu Kültür,” she said.

Kavala’s Anadolu Kültür, founded by Kavala to support diversity and democracy through cultural exchange, gave birth to the Hafıza Merkezi (Memory Centre) a Turkish non-governmental organisation that focuses on extra-judicial killings and disappearances that took place in Turkey’s southeast during the 1990s, at the peak of an armed conflict between the Turkish army and Kurdish militants.