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Turkish Scientists Face Injustice

Eight academics are among those being unfairly persecuted by Turkish officials, according to a new report from scientific academies’ human rights committees.

By | August 5, 2013

Kizilay Square in Ankara, TurkeyWIKIMEDIA, AHMETANIn February, three representatives of scientific academies’ human rights committees visited eight academics—from political scientists to surgeons—who were detained by Turkish officials, accused of acts of terrorism and plotting to overthrow the government, among other things. In a new report, the human rights representatives deem the persecution of their Turkish colleagues unjust and call on the country to duly consider the evidence they present supporting the innocence of these researchers.

“On the basis of all of the information available to us and given what the various prosecutors claimed to be evidence of guilt, we conclude that the evidence does not support the conclusion that any of our eight colleagues is guilty of committing the crimes of which they have been accused,” wrote the representatives—from United States’ National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, as well as the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. “The system of justice under which these colleagues have been charged . . . is far from a system that would satisfy international standards of justice.”

One of the eight, Fatih Hilmioğlu, spent several years working in internal medicine in Germany and Turkey before building a liver transplant center in the Turkish city of Malatya, according to the report. When visited in prison, Hilmioğlu “noted the irony of his having saved hundreds of lives, yet the government is accusing him of being a terrorist and keeping him behind bars for years in pretrial detention,” the academies’ representatives wrote.

Speaking with ScienceInsider, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Peter Diamond, co-author of the report, sympathized with the plight of the detained academics he visited and their families. “These were highly active, successful people with careers like mine,” he said. “And suddenly, it’s gone.” In June, one jailed scientist attempted suicide.

Diamond added that he is hopeful “this report will help in some small way.”

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