Activist kept in prison due to ‘lack of good conduct’

Renowned writer and activist Celaletttin Can

A prison administration in İstanbul has rejected a petition from well-known activist, writer and journalist Celaletttin Can concerning his right to be released on probation, arguing a “lack of good conduct” and “continuing risk of causing harm to society,” the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

Can, the spokesperson for the 78’ers initiative, was sent to prison on Aug. 31 after his 15-month sentence on conviction of disseminating terrorist propaganda was upheld by an appeals court. He is required to actually remain behind bars for 11 months, 25 days for a 15-month sentence. Since the shortened sentence is less than one year, Can has the right to be released on judicial probation.

However, the Administrative and Observation Board at Marmara Prison in İstanbul on Sept. 19 cited Can’s lack of good behavior, continuing risk of causing harm to society and ongoing legal proceedings as the reasons for not approving his request to be released on probation.

The board also interpreted Can’s failure to acknowledge the commission of the crime as a lack of remorse.

According to the board, Can should be observed further to ensure that he is rehabilitated and increases his awareness of the offense.

Can said the board made this decision without even speaking to him, adding that the reasons provided were not valid.

“I am an individual engaged in journalism and writing, including the creation of political content, with my own distinct political beliefs, and my activities are publicly recognized. Making criminal allegations such as committing a crime or causing harm to society is contrary to human rights, both at the national and international levels. … The … decision by the board lacks a basis in law,” Can said.

Prominent human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin said Can was imprisoned due to his identity as a journalist.

“Saying he ‘lacks good conduct’ means he isn’t complying. The right to probation is clearly being violated!” she added.

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) also emphasized on Friday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Can has been “unlawfully” kept behind bars for 23 days.

Fifty-six journalists, lawyers and human rights activists had served as symbolic editors-in-chief between May and August 2016 in solidarity with the now-shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper.

Can was among 13 journalists who participated in the solidarity campaign who were convicted and sentenced to prison in April 2019.

He was also among the group of “wise people” selected by the Turkish government in 2013 to contribute to the settlement of Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse referring to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

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