TURKEY: The cases of Prof. Dr. Fatih Hilmioğlu and Prof. Dr. Mehmet Haberal

19.1.2013 / GIT / MESOP – Below is a detailed account of the cases of Prof. Fatih Hilmioglu and Prof. Mehmet Haberal. We believe in their right to a prompt fair trial regardless of their politics.

Prof. Dr. Fatih Hilmioğlu is a physician and a professor of medicine and was a faculty member at Başkent University in Ankara, Turkey and former rector of İnönü University in Malatya, Turkey. He was arrested in April of 2009 under the over sweeping Ergenekon investigation and has been imprisoned for over 3 years. Dr. Hilmioglu is accused of being part of the alleged Ergenekon criminal organization working towards destabilizing the country for overthrowing the elected government, an organization whose existence is yet to be proved (
Abbott, 2012).

While awaiting trial, Dr. Hilmioğlu has suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. Despite the recommendation that he should be released to await trial as he received medical treatment as “he has the risk of liver cancer, and staying in prison means his life could be in danger” (Gürdoğan, 2010), he was sent back to Silivri prison. As predicted by the medical professionals who treated him, his health has taken a turn for the worse. Dr. Hilmioğlu has been diagnosed with liver cancer and is gravely ill. Members of several civil society organizations including Turkish Medical Association (Turk Tabipler Birligi), Association of Academic Staff (TÜMÖD), Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV), and journalists have come together in early January of 2013 to issue a press release to request the release of Dr. Hilmioğlu (Cumhuriyet, 2013).
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Haberal is also a physician and a professor of medicine. He is a pioneer of transplant surgery in Turkey, founder of 10 hospitals, 6 dialysis centers, and the founder and former rector of Başkent University in Ankara. (Biography and publications can be seen from his
website). He also has been imprisoned for over 3 years accused of being affiliated with the alleged Ergenekon criminal organization. He had transformed the court transcript of his first verbal deposition and cross-examination which had taken place after a year after his arrest in a book titled “What is my Crime? (Akyol, 2011). Dr. Haberal is 69 years old and suffered from heart disease in jail.

The excessive length of criminal proceedings in Turkey has been well documented in several national and international reports including the 2012 Turkey Progress Report of the European Union, the Reporters without Borders Investigation Report, Human Rights Watch, and the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights report. The Committee of Concerned Scientists (CCS), an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers, and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom, sponsored a petition on their website (concernedscientists.org) calling for the release of Dr. Fatih Hilmioglu and Dr. Mehmet Haberal, for health reasons pending the outcome of their trials. The petition states:
“In October of 2009, CCS
wrote in concern about Drs. Mehmet Haberal and 11 other doctors and academics under indictment in Turkey. CCS has learned that most of the arrested academics have been released on bail. However, two of those on our list are still being held: Dr. Mehmet Haberal, the rector of Baskent University in Ankara, who pioneered transplant surgery in Turkey, and Dr. Fatih Hilmioglu, a gastroenterologist, former rector of Inonu University in Malatya. CCS urges the release of Drs. Haberal and Hilmioglu for health reasons pending the outcome of their trial.
The two have now been detained for almost three years. Turkish law allows indicted individuals to be kept in long-term detention only if there is a danger that they might either destroy evidence or flee – not likely in this case. Drs. Haberal and Hilmioglu have been in state custody since their arrests in April 2009; however, because both were suffering from ill-health, they were held in hospitals where they reportedly were receiving medical attention. Both men were subsequently transferred back to prison. Since then, their health reportedly took a turn for the worse. Dr. Hilmioglu suffers from cirrhosis of the liver and reportedly is gravely ill. Dr. Haberal has angina, cardiac arrhythmia, and severe anxiety and depression.
CCS is concerned that these academics and doctors appear to be on trial solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and of association. CCS is also concerned that such extensive detention without bail deprives defendants of their rights under Turkish and international law, which require such a trial to be held within a reasonable time. Finally, almost three years in detention pending trial, especially under these circumstances, surely exceed any limitations in the Turkish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
You can view and sign the petition for the release of Drs. Haberal and Hilmioglu, on the CCS website at:


Abbott, Alison. (June 26, 2012) Secularist academic jailed in Turkey. Nature, available at: http://www.nature.com/news/secularist-academic-jailed-in-turkey-1.10891 [accessed January 8, 2013]

Akyol, Mete. (Eds.). (2011). What is my crime? Professor Mehmet Haberal’s oral Silivri deposition. Ankara, Turkey: Can Matematik Yayınları.Available at: http://www.mehmethaberal.com.tr/en/what_is_my_crime.pdf

Cumhuriyet (January 8, 2013). Fatih Hilmioğlu’na özgürlük çağrısı, available at:

http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/?hn=391172&kn=7&ka=4&kb=7 [accessed January 10, 2013]

European Commission (December 10, 2012) Turkey 2012 Progress Report Accompanying The Communication From The Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013, available at: http://Ec.Europa.Eu/Enlargement/Pdf/Key_Documents/2012/Package/Tr_Rapport_2012_En.Pdf [accessed January 8, 2013]

Gurdogan, Burhan. (August 13, 2010) Turkey’s Ergenekon investigation – violations and inconsistencies. OpenDemocracy, available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/burhan-gurdogan/turkey%E2%80%99s-ergenekon-investigation-violations-and-inconsistencies [accessed January 8, 2013]

Human Rights Watch. (November 1, 2010). Protesting as a Terrorist Offense: The Arbitrary Use of Terrorism Laws to Prosecute and Incarcerate Demonstrators in Turkey, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4cd2b8b02.html [accessed January 8, 2013]

Reporters without borders. (RWB). (June 2011). Media and Justice in Turkey, Mistrust And Repression Investigation Report, available at: http://en.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/rsf_report_turkey_2011_en.pdf [accessed January 8, 2013]

U.S. Department of State (2011). Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Turkey, available at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dlid=186414 [accessed January 8, 2013]