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Ahmet Tuna Altınel is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Lyon-1 in France. During a visit to Turkey, his passport was seized. When he inquired as to its whereabouts, he was arrested on suspicion of “propaganda for a terrorist organization,” soon thereafter charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” and detained for nearly three months. The predicate for this charge was social media posts inviting attendance at an event in France entitled “Cizre — the Story of a Massacre” and interpretation assistance Mr. Altınel provided at the event. After his eventual release from pre-trial detention, the prosecution again reclassified the charge to “propaganda for a terrorist organization” — a set of changes defense counsel asserted had been in order to render Mr. Altınel’s pre-trial detention more likely (since “membership in a terrorist organization” carries a presumption of pre-trial detention).

The pre-trial process was marred by numerous violations of Mr. Altınel’s rights. First, the Turkish authorities violated Mr. Altınel’s right to liberty by ordering his detention prior to trial despite a lack of evidence that he had committed the crime charged. Further, the charges against him were based on protected expression, and thus his detention was arbitrary.

Second, the Governor of Balıkesir stated, prior to trial, that “it was determined” that Mr. Altınel had “organized an event for the PKK/KCK armed terrorist organization.” This violated Mr. Altınel’s right to be presumed innocent by assuming facts that were to be proven at trial.

Further, while the trial itself generally comported with international standards, the facts show that there was no lawful basis for the decision by the Turkish authorities to prosecute the case, given that the conduct charged was protected by the right to freedom of expression. This Report therefore concludes that the prosecution was pursued in bad faith, in violation of Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights.