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Geophysicist Detained for Social Media Post

Photo credit: Duvar English

In the aftermath of the two earthquakes that hit Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria on February 6, 2023, the Turkish government has prioritized quelling dissent instead of delivering the most needed emergency relief aid to the eleven provinces hit by the earthquake. On February 28, 2023, Turkish police arrested Övgün Ahmet Ercan, a renowned professor of geophysics at Istanbul Technical University, on charges of inciting hatred and spreading fake news on social media.

Ercan was taken into custody in the eastern city of Elazig, due to his social media posts that criticized the single-man rule and blamed the government for its poor and slow response to the disaster, including allegations of rape and physical violence incidents among the survivors until the military arrived at the disaster zone 72 hours later. The post that resulted in Ercan’s detention was not the first time in which he criticized the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis. After his statement was taken at the police station, Ercan was transferred to Malatya for court proceedings, where he was released under judicial control with an international travel ban.

We at the Endangered Scholars Worldwide would like to express our deepest sympathy for all those affected by the devastating earthquake that killed, maimed, and displaced thousands upon thousands of people in Turkey and Syria. ESW condemns the Turkish government’s use of judicial mechanisms to intimidate the opposition and quell the dissent in the aftermath of the disaster. The Turkish government’s attacks on professional organizations and scholars criminalize freedoms of speech and of association, as well as it discredits scientific knowledge. ESW urges the Turkish authorities to respect and guarantee the autonomy of scholarly knowledge and freedom of speech in Turkey and to implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties, and to drop any charges against the accused arising from their nonviolent exercise of the rights to expression, association, and assembly.

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