Urgent Appeal for HRDs in Turkey – THE OBSERVATORY

New information
TUR 005 / 0717 / OBS 078.6
Provisional release /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Restriction to freedom of movement
Turkey
October 27, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the provisional release of Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ Assembly (1), Ms. İlknur Üstün, member of the Women’s Coalition, Mr. Veli Acu, member of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Ms. Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, member of the Citizens’ Assembly, Mr. Günal Kurşun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner, security consultants, as well as their ongoing judicial harassment together with Mr. Nejat Taştan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative. The Observatory has also been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Taner Kılıç, founding member of Amnesty International Turkey, and Chair of its Board of Directors since 2014.

According to the information received, on October 25, 2017, the Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul ordered the provisional release of Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem and Ms. İlknur Üstün. However, the court ordered a travel ban against Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli.

Additionally, the Court subjected Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Mr. Veli Acu to a judicial control. They both have to report twice a month to police stations. The judicial control over Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli was also lifted on October 25, 2017, however, police stations were only notified of the lift on October 27, 2017.

Charges of “assisting an armed terrorist organisation” under Articles 314.2, 314.3, 220.6, 53.1 and 58.9 of the Turkish Penal Code as well as Articles 3 and 5 of the Anti-Terror Law no 3713 are still pending against Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli. The next hearing is scheduled on November 22, 2017. If convicted they are facing 15 years imprisonment.

In addition, on October 26, 2017, a Court in Izmir ordered the continued pre-trial detention of Mr. Taner Kılıç, pending further investigation. Mr. Taner Kılıç who has been detained since June 6, 2017 (2), is being prosecuted under charges of “assisting an armed terrorist organisation” alongside the ten human rights defenders as well as under charges of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” under articles 314.2, 53.1, 314.3 and 63.1 of the Turkish Penal Code as well as Articles 3 and 5 of the Anti-Terror Law n°3713. He is facing 15 years’ imprisonment. As both, the Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul and Izmir’s Court accepted the Prosecutor’s request to merge Mr. Taner Kılıç’s case to this of the ten human rights defenders, the next hearing in his case will take place on November 22, 2017 in Istanbul.

The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Taner Kılıç and to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial against him and Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, which only aim at silencing their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, in the context of an ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders in Turkey.

The Observatory also urges the Turkish authorities to lift the travel ban in force against Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Mr. Veli Acu.

Background information:

On July 5, 2017, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Ms. Idil Eser, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Nejat Taştan, Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner were arrested and detained in different police stations across Büyükada, Istanbul, following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Human Rights Joint Platform (3) in Büyükada. The owner of the hotel where the workshop was being organised was also arrested and released on July 6, 2017.

Under Turkey’s state of emergency, they were not given access to their lawyers and family for at least 24 hours. On July 6, 2017, after 24 hours, their detention was extended for seven days.

On July 7, 2017, the ten human rights defenders were transferred to Istanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan street.

During a health control in Büyükada police stations, Mr. Günal Kurşun and Mr. Veli Acu reported that they were handcuffed and that the doctor in charge did not properly examine them, in violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) (4).

On July 10 and 11, 2017, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Ms. Idil Eser, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli’s houses were raided and searched by the police, who seized electronic equipment including flash disks, external disks, CDs and sim cards. According to search warrants, the police were looking for evidence to substantiate the Prosecutor’s allegation of “meeting with a suspicion of terrorist activity”. However, due to the confidentiality of the investigation neither copy of search warrants nor of seized materials were given to their lawyers. Furthermore, some searches took place without the presence of lawyers. Ms. Nalan Erkem’s apartment search was postponed until a representative of Istanbul Bar Association was able to assist, the next morning. Likewise, Mr. Nejat Taştan was briefly taken out of custody to open the door of his apartment in order to allow police search. Despite his objection, they carried out the search without the presence of a lawyer.

On July 11, 2017 Istanbul’s Terror and Organised Crime Investigation Bureau’s Prosecutor extended the pre-trial detention period of the ten human rights defenders for seven more days to complete his investigation. The Prosecutor also ordered the confidentiality of the investigation, thus preventing lawyers to access the files.

On July 18, 2017, the Public Prosecutor at Çağlayan Court House formally charged the ten human rights defenders on charges of “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation without being a member”. However, neither the Prosecutor nor the Judge referred to any specific organisation nor to any criminal provision. Moreover, as the investigation remained confidential for a while, lawyers could not access their clients’ files.

Despite the request of the Prosecutor to indict and place in pre-trial detention all ten human rights defenders on July 17, 2017, the Court ordered the release on judicial control of Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli. Yet on July 21, 2017, the Public Prosecutor at Çağlayan Court House ordered their re-arrest. Ms. Nalan Erkem and Ms. İlknur Üstün were arrested on July 22, 2017 at midnight.

On July 24, 2017 afternoon, Mr. Nejat Taştan went to the Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul, and had to wait until 3 am on July 25 at the İstanbul Courthouse, which eventually ordered his release on judicial control (5).

On July 25, Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli appeared at the Diyarbakır Court House, where the Judge also ordered his release on judicial control. They were both under obligation to show up at the police station twice a week and a travel ban was imposed on them.

On August 1, 2017, the Criminal Court of Peace in Istanbul refused to release Mr. Ali Gharavi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, and Ms. İdil Eser.

Respectively on July 18, 2017, Mr. Veli Acu and Mr. Günal Kurşun, on July 31, 2017, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Ms. Nalan Erkem, and on August 1, 2017 Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner were transferred to Silivri prison in Istanbul.

On October 16, 2017, the Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul accepted the bill of indictment against the ten human rights defenders initially issued on October 4, 2017 by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The ten human rights defenders were charged with “assisting an armed terrorist organisation” under Articles 314.2, 314.3, 220.6, 53.1 and 58.9 of the Turkish Penal Code as well as Articles 3 and 5 of the Anti-Terror Law n°3713, and requested 15 years’ imprisonment against them.

On October 16, 2017, the case of Mr. Taner Kılıç was merged to this indictment who is, in addition to the above-mentioned first set of charges, accused of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” under articles 314.2, 53.1, 314.3 and 63.1 of the Turkish Penal Code as well as Articles 3 and 5 of the Anti-Terror Law n°3713.

The bill of indictment was not immediately notified to the human rights defenders and their lawyers, who were first informed through the media on October 8, 2017. Their lawyers were notified of the indictment on October 16, 2017.

The ten human rights defenders have more generally been the target of an extensive smear campaign accusing them of “planning to fuel unrest across Turkey” in certain segments of Turkish media.

On July 14, 2017, United Nations (UN) human rights experts Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, publicly called for the release of the ten defenders (6).

 

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Taner Kılıç as his detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities;
  2. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan, Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli and Mr. Taner Kılıç so that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;
  3. Lift the travel ban in force against Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli;
  4. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
  5. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

  • President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31
  • Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım, Fax: +90 (312) 403 62 82 Email: ozelkalem@basbakanlik.gov.tr
  • Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ, Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
  • Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu; Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30
  • Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
  • Ambassador Mr. Ali Naci Koru, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 734 08 59; Email: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Turkey in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, October 27, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel and fax FIDH+33 1 43 55 25 18 /+33 1 43 55 18 80
  • Tel and Fax OMCT+41 22 809 49 39 /+41 22 809 49 29

  • (1) The Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly is an NGO dedicated to peace, democracy and human rights in Europe, working on the notions of fundamental rights and freedoms, peace, democracy and pluralism.
  • (2) See Observatory Urgent Appeal TUR 003 / 0617 / OBS 064 published on June 16, 2017.
  • (3) Citizens Assembly, Human Rights Agenda Association and Amnesty Int. Turkey are members of the Human Rights Joint Platform.
  • (4) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/175
  • (5) The Observatory underlines that Mr. Nejat Taştan is a disabled person at 52%, which means that he needs careful treatment and therefore his conditions could only worsen in detention.
  • (6) See OHCHR Statement, July 14, 2017:
    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21875&LangID=E
 
 

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