War Resisters' International delegation to Turkey

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On 28 April, Mehmet Tarhan, gay, anarchist, and conscientious objector, was tried for "insubordination in front of his unit" according to Article 88 or the Turkish Military Penal Code. This charge carries a punishment of between 3 months and 5 years imprisonment.

To show international support, War Resisters' International organised an international delegation to observe the trial. Eldad Zion, from the Israeli organisation New Profile, and Tina Kemmler, member of WRI's German section DFG-VK, travelled to Turkey and observed the trial.

Mehmet Tarhan was arrested on 8 April in Izmir, and brought to the recruitment office. From there he was transferred to a military unit in Sivas, and imprisoned in a military prison there. On 20 April 2005, he was transferred to the military hospital of Sivas by force. On arrival at the hospital he was beaten by other prisoners, who has been told "a terrorist was coming". He was forcefully undressed and forced to wear a uniform.

On 26 April, he was examined, and declared "healthy" by the medial board. This was unexpected, as many supporters saw his transfer to the hospital as a sign that the military would attempt to discharge him for "homosexuality", which the Turkish military still views as an illness, contrary to standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On 28 April, Mehmet Tarhan stood trial for "insubordination in front of his unit". However, the case was adjourned - probably to 26 May - so that 10 soldiers can be called as witnesses to his "insubordination".

Mehmet Tarhan's arrest created a wave of international solidarity, with the international delegation as one visible expression. War Resisters' International published a documentation on conscientious objection in Turkey, which also documents recent cases of imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Turkey (the cases of Mehmet Bal and Halil Savda), the important case of Osman Murat Ülke, and other important documents. The documentation is available on WRI's website for download.

At the end of the trial of Mehmet Tarhan, police briefly arrested one of the attending Turkish supporters, conscientious objector Şahin Özbay. He was released a few hours later, with an order to present himself for medical examination in Istanbul.

Published in CO-Update, May 2005, No. 9