Sevan Nishanian Moved to Yenipazar Prison

ISTANBUL (Demokrat Haber) — Linguist, tourism pioneer and dissident writer Sevan Nishanian is being moved from the “maximum-security” Sakran Prison in Aliaga to Yenipazar Prison in Aydin.

This will the fourth prison stop for Nishanian, who started his sentence at Torbali Prison on January 2 of this year. Nishanian had been tried and convicted of “illegal construction”; the building activity in question was the construction of a 40-square-meter cottage on his own property, which was deemed “unauthorized” and “against code.”

Nishanian’s first move from Torbali, an open (roughly equivalent to minimum-security) prison to Buca, a closed (roughly equivalent to maximum-security) prison on February 26, had come about as a result of whistleblowing: Nishanian publicized theft by a prison guard, which led to an investigation, which led to the prison administration’s decision to banish him.

That Nishanian had started serving his sentence in an open prison was in line with the nature of the nonviolent crime he was alleged to have committed; his move to Buca’s maximum-security environment, by contrast, was widely condemned as unjust punishment and exile. In addition, the haste with which the transfer was ordered, without a court ruling in place, had been referred to as a miscarriage of justice by commentators.

At Buca, Sevan Nishanian was made to sleep on the cold concrete floor for several days—prison officials claimed that no cot was available — and was not allowed to shower. When there was a public outcry about the conditions, Nishanian was moved a second time, this time to Sakran, in Izmir province’s Aliaga district. This time the stated reason was that Nishanian’s life was at risk.

At Sakran, Nishanian was put in the same cellblock with inmates on trial for murder, facing life without possibility of parole. Soon thereafter, he was put in solitary, once again because his life was in danger. On May 27, Nishanian petitioned the prison administration, stating that he was unjustly being kept in isolation, the risk of bodily harm serving as a convenient excuse; he asked to be moved out of Sakran. The administration, having reviewed the petition, ordered this week that Nishanian be moved to Yenipazar Closed Penal Facility in Aydın.

Sait Çetinoglu, a member of the International Committee for Freedom and Justice for Sevan Nishanian, pointed out that while this latest prison move may technically qualify as an improvement, it is still incarceration in a maximum-security prison and a continuation of the pressure and restrictions facing one of the most prominent dissidents in Turkey. Çetinoglu called for a reversal of Nishanian’s conviction and urged authorities to free him.