Press Release - Turkey: BP pipeline campaigner arrested and tortured
Press Release - 6th May 2004
Turkish authorities have arrested and tortured a prominent human rights defender following his work to highlight the social and environmental impacts of the controversial Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Human rights and environmental groups are calling on the international community to intervene urgently to guarantee the safety of the campaigner.
Ferhat Kaya is a prominent human rights defender and chairman of the legal pro-Kurdish political party DEHAP in Ardahan's central district in northeast Turkey. He has been at the forefront of pressing for proper compensation for those affected by the Baku-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, and has assisted thirty-eight villagers in bringing cases to the European Court of Human Rights this year.
Kaya was arrested on Wednesday following his attendance at meetings with those affected by the pipeline and later with trade unionists in Ardahan. Witnesses today observed blood on his clothes and deep cuts on his arms following one day in detention. A medical report appears to confirm the torture by stating that he requires three days' rest. He was derided as a "terrorist" by the court prosecutor and his family has so far been denied access to him.
Witnesses, human rights and environmental groups believe this is Kaya's second arrest in connection with his work to highlight concerns over the pipeline. Kurdish Human Rights Project and other concerned NGOs have previously written to the UK Secretary for International Development and the Minister for Trade and Investment calling for their action over his first arrest, where he was sentenced for referring to jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as "Mr"; considered by Turkish authorities to be a crime for allegedly implying a degree of respect.
There is strong and direct evidence of a link between his intimidation, arrest and torture and his work to highlight the social and environmental impacts of the BTC pipeline.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of KHRP, says, "In spite of all reassurances, this affirms that the practice of torture is continuing, and that a climate of intimidation exists which prevents effective consultation about the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. We are gravely concerned for his welfare. We urge the international community to intervene to pressure Turkish authorities into guaranteeing his safety and securing his release."
Nicholas Hildyard of The Cornerhouse, stated, "We fear that the arrest and torture of Mr. Kaya is intended to intimidate those who would speak out on the project. Such intimidation is unacceptable. The financial institutions backing the pipeline must intervene to ensure freedom of expression."
Ferhat was released on 21st May, having been required to pay huge bail. PLATFORM and other organisations have asked for an urgant investigation of the human rights impacts of the BTC pipeline.