Front Line Defenders: Saturday Mothers Are Acquitted

Saturday Mothers/People are acquitted


On 26 May 2023, fourteen human rights defenders from Cumartesi Anneleri/İnsanları (Saturday Mothers/People) were acquitted of the charges of attending an illegal demonstration and not dispersing against warning by the Küçükçekmece 1st Penal Court of First Instance in Istanbul. Fourteen members of the group were detained on 30 August 2022 while attempting to make a press statement at the Altınşehir Graveyard for the Unidentified to mark the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, and later charged with violating the law on Meetings and Demonstrations (Law no. 2911) of the Turkish Penal Code.

During the hearing, the video footage taken by law enforcement officers on the day of the arrest was played, which showed the exchange between the police and the human rights defenders. In the footage, the police are seen stopping the Saturday Mothers/People from making a press statement, to which the defenders object by saying that the police intervention is illegal and they have the right to make a statement. Afterwards, even though the human rights defenders agree to disperse, the video clearly shows that the police did not give reasonable time for them to leave.

Two witnesses said in their testimonies that the police had outnumbered the human rights defenders, that there were armoured vehicles, water cannons and riot police at the scene, and that the whole area was blockaded. One of the witnesses said that he heard one of the human rights defenders say that they would disperse if the police would not allow them to make a statement, but it would be impossible for them to leave because the police had encircled them and they could not make it through the blockade.

Following the statement of the defence lawyer, the prosecutor submitted his opinion to the court saying that the evidence showed that the police intervention started only one minute and 52 seconds after they gave a final warning, without giving the human rights defenders sufficient time to disperse. The prosecutor asked the court for the acquittal of all fourteen human rights defenders on the basis that the act for which they were being charged did not materialise.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the acquittal of fourteen human rights defenders who should not have been detained or prosecuted in the first place. Front Line Defenders also recalls that the members of Saturday Mothers/People are still being arrested every Saturday at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul where they try to hold their peaceful sit-in to demand justice for their loved ones who were forcibly disappeared in state custody.

Front Line Defenders reiterates its call to the Turkish authorities to comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling which found that the human rights defenders’ right to hold meetings and demonstrations was violated and end the harassment of human rights defenders and the families of the disappeared.