By Handan Kazanci
Istanbulites on Tuesday joined a global protest to show solidarity with renowned Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan, who was arrested in France over allegations of sexual assault and rape.
The 55-year-old Islamic studies professor, who has been held in preventative detention and waiting for a trail in Paris since February 2018, denies accusations.
Protests under the banner of “Free Tariq Ramadan Campaign” have been held outside French embassies and consulates in over 20 countries across the world -- including the U.K., Canada, Belgium, the U.S., Brazil, Niger and Senegal -- and called for the immediate release of the Muslim scholar.
In Turkey, the crowd gathered in front of the French consulate in Istanbul’s teeming Istiklal Street.
Yasin Kayaci, the head of Istanbul-based International Association for Justice and Human Rights (YAIDER), read out an open letter -- titled A worldwide appeal for due process for Tariq Ramadan -- which was signed by several scholars and politicians across the world, including Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, British filmmaker Ken Loach and professor Salman Sayyid from the U.K.
“After four months of pre-detention, Tariq Ramadan’s last appeal for bail has again been denied,” Kayaci said.
“It is not for us to judge Tariq Ramadan’s guilt or innocence. We fully recognize the rights of the plaintiffs to have their case heard without prejudice and without injury to their honor. But we wish to remind the country that has affirmed the inalienability of human rights and equality of the importance of respect for the principles that ensure the integrity of French justice,” he added.
“Why has Mr. Ramadan been denied bail at the preliminary investigative stage although he willingly came for questioning and has given all required guarantees?” he asked.
The letter was presented to the authorities at the French Consulate General in Istanbul.
Speaking to media, Prof. Sami Al-Arian of Istanbul Sebahattin Zaim University, said that Ramadan’s rights have been denied.
“We consider him to be a political prisoner in France,” Al-Arian said.
“The French legal system has been treating him in a way that lacks a basic right of due process,” he said.
“Professor Ramadan is a voice that has been effective in representing Muslims especially in France, in Europe and across the world.
"We came here today to ask French consulate and French political system […] to allow him [Ramadan] to defend himself,” he added.
“There have been 153,000 signatures from people across the world asking the France to give professor Ramadan due process rights,” he said.
In November 2017, Ramadan took a temporary leave from his position at Oxford University in the U.K.
According to the organizers, a vigil will be held in Paris on Tuesday in front of Fresnes prison where Ramadan is currently held in detention.