Ali Avci is a Turkish filmmaker and producer who was arrested on July 13, 2017, one day after releasing a trailer for his new film Uyaniş (“Awakening”). He was remanded in custody a week later on terrorism related charges.
Turkey’s state-run media outlet reported on July 19 that Avci had been charged with being “a leader of an armed terrorist organization,” due to his alleged connection with Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based preacher whom the Turkish government accuses of having planned last summer’s failed coup. Avci was detained along with another wanted individual who was a user of the ByLock encrypted messaging application (which the government associates with FETÖ, Gülen’s organization), but the prosecutor’s office provided no further basis for his charges. Avci is not the first artist to be faced with charges of aiding Gülen and his group; the same charges have been the basis of several other cases involving artists in the year since the coup attempt, including Musa Kart and Atilla Taş. Broadly, Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime has arrested hundreds of people on accusations of participating in the failed coup and shuttered almost all free media sources.
Avci’s newest film threatens to undermine that controlled narrative. The trailer for Uyaniş, which tells the story of the coup attempt, depicts a soldier holding a loaded gun to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s head, though it does not indicate whether or not Erdoğan is killed in the film’s version of events. Avci was also the producer of another film, Reis (“The Chief”), which premiered earlier this year and chronicles Erdoğan’s early life. The fact that Avci was arrested mere hours after the his newest trailer premiered indicates that his charges may be a cover for the government’s authoritarian desire to suppress any criticism of Erdoğan as he tries to stabilize his control of the country. Avci has proven some degree of impartiality, however, as critics of Reis suspected it of having a pro-Erdoğan message.
Join us in calling on the Turkish government to drop its charges against Avci and to release him immediately.