Turkey: Conditional release of Ramazan Demir and Ayşe Acinikli, members of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD)

08/09/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 003 / 0316 / OBS 025.2
Conditional Release/
Judicial Harassment
Turkey
September 8, 2016

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 conditional release of Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli, members of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Ozgurlukcu Hukukcular Dernegi – OHD).

According to the information received, on September 7, 2016, the 14th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul ordered the conditional release of Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli. Both were set free at the end of the day, after 156 days of pre-trial detention.

The September-7 hearing was monitored by Mr. Martin Pradel, lawyer at the Paris Bar Association, within the framework of a trial observation mandated by the Observatory, as well as by other lawyers from the Paris Bar Association. The Deputy Consul General of France also attended the whole hearing.

The court session started three hours late, allegedly because of “troubles to bring the detainees” to the courtroom. As it was the case in June, a violation of the publicity of debates was also highlighted, as the doors of the courtroom were locked.

In the course of yesterday’s hearing, Mr. Ramazan Demir was accused by the Public Prosecutor, inter alia, of “denigrating Turkey because of complaints he filed before the European Court of Human Rights and the contacts he had with foreign lawyers”.

Ms. Ayşe Acinikli was in turn accused of “visiting her clients in jail after their trial” and “receiving compliments from her clients” through phone-tapped calls. In both cases, what was at stake was the criminalisation of their work as independent lawyers.

During the same hearing, clear violations of the right to a fair trial were also witnessed. On the one hand, because of state emergency, Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli were notably not allowed to be represented by more than three lawyers. On the other hand, the latter were denied the right to speak to their clients throughout the court session.

It is also to be noted that a preliminary motion filed by Mr. Demir’s lawyer to contest the systematic recording of conversations between lawyers and their clients was rejected by the Court without justification.

Besides, the legal counsels of both Ms. Acinkli and Mr. Demir were further accused of "association of wrongdoers", for having shared a car to visit their clients in jail.

At the end of the hearing, the Public Prosecutor nonetheless requested their conditional release, on the grounds that there were no risks of escape or of destruction of evidence or testimonies. The Court accepted the request, and ordered Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayse Acinkli to be released on condition.

The Observatory welcomes the decision of the 14th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul to conditionally release Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli, and requests the judicial authorities to drop all the charges against them as they only aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory more generally urges the Turkish authorities to put an end to the ongoing harassment, including at judicial level, against them and more in general against all human rights defenders and lawyers in the country.

Background information:

In the early morning of March 16, 2016, OHD members Messrs. İrfan Arasan, Hüseyin Boğatekin, Şefik Çelik, Adem Çalışçı, Tamer Doğan, Ramazan Demir and Mustafa Ruzgar, as well as Ms. Ayşe Acinikli and Ms. Ayşe Gösterişlioğlu were arrested and saw their houses in Istanbul raided by the police, within the framework of an anti-terrorism operation which targeted at least 89 individuals in several cities (Aydın, Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Ağrı, Konya, Bitlis, Erzurum, Mus, Mardin, Şırnak, Siirt, Elazığ, İzmir, Muğla, Urfa, Antep, Maraş and Sakarya).

The nine lawyers were arrested on charges of “membership of an illegal organisation” reportedly for events that took place between 2011 and 2014. During their interrogation, they were questioned about interviews they gave in the media, complaints they lodged before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and visits to their clients. According to our information, the authorities have yet to disclose the reasons behind the alleged offences that led to the searches and arrests. To date the case file on the arrests remains confidential pursuant to the Article 153.2 of the Turkish Criminal Code Procedure (No. 5271).

On March 17, the lawyers were to plead the case of the 46 lawyers tried for participating in the defence of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). During the hearing, the lawyers who could be present said that they could not defend adequately their clients whilst their colleagues were in custody. A delegation of lawyers from France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom was also attending the trial.

Moreover, as a civil society group attempted to deliver a press statement outside the court to denounce the illegal arrest and detention of the nine lawyers, the gathering was attacked by Turkish police in riot gear, equipped with tear gas and water cannons.

On March 18, Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace, chaired by judge Mr. Bakır Altun ordered the release of Messrs. İrfan Arasan and Mustafa Ruzgar.

On March 19, the Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace ordered the release of the seven remaining ÖHD lawyers arguing that the evidence provided was insufficient and that detention was a disproportionate measure of restraint under the circumstances. The public prosecutor, Mr. Orhan Aydın, objected this decision in a hearing that lasted 13 hours. As the court confirmed its decision, the public prosecutor objected the court’s decision.

On March 21, the Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace rejected the public prosecutor’s objection a second time. The public prosecutor filed an objection before the Istanbul Second Criminal Court of Peace.

On March 22, the Istanbul Second Criminal Court of Peace, chaired by Judge Mr. Durmuş Karacalı, accepted the objection and ordered the arrest of four lawyers, namely Hüseyin Boğatekin, Ayşe Acinikli, Ramazan Demir and Ayşe Gösterişlioğlu, together with 17 other individuals. The court argued that there was enough evidence showing that they had committed the alleged crime, and that they could run away or damage the evidence. The court did not inform the defense lawyers of the hearing and failed also to ask for counter arguments. The defense lawyers filed an objection against this order.

The same day, Mr. Hüseyin Bogatekin and Ms. Ayse Gösterişlioğlu were arrested and detained in the courthouse, while the police could not find Ayşe Acinikli and Ramazan Demir. Overnight, the Istanbul Eight Criminal Court of Peace, chaired by Mr. Atila Öztürk, heard Hüseyin Bogatekin and Ayse Gösterişlioğlu. The court limited the number of defense lawyers to three per accused. It decided to remand them to detention in Metris Prison for males in Istanbul and Bakırköy Prison for females respectively.

On April 6, Mr. Demir and Ms. Acinikli were referred by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor Office to the Istanbul 3rd Criminal Court of Peace, which remanded them in custody.

On May 25, Judge Bulent Dalkiran, President of the Istanbul 14th Criminal Court of Peace, assisted by magistrates Mehmet Celik and Ferhat Korkmaz, denied the request for release that had been filed by Mr. Demir and Ms. Acinikli’s lawyers on May 18. The judge justified his decision on the grounds that he had “not been able to hear the accused”.

On June 22, 2016, the trial of Mr. Demir and Ms. Acinkli opened before the 14th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul, which decided to extend their detention until the next hearing of September 7, 2016.

In the course of that the June-22 hearing, Mr. Demir’s and Ms. Acinkli’s lawyers argued that the detention of their clients had been ordered in contravention of Turkish law, and that much of the evidence gathered against them, including phone-tapped conversations, had been obtained in an illegal manner. In addition, as the case file against Mr. Demir’s and Ms. Acinkli’s has been made confidential pursuant to Article 153.2 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code, the latter are still unable to access and challenge the charges levied against them, thereby seriously undermining the equality of arms principle. Besides, it was reported that although the prosecutor declared that Mr. Demir’s and Acinkli’s detention had “lasted long enough”, the 14th Heavy Penal Court refused to release them on bail, reportedly to avoid risks of escape, and to prevent destruction of evidence or testimonies.

At the beginning of the hearing, a violation of the publicity of debates was further highlighted when the judge decided to lock the doors of the courtroom in view of the high number of persons willing to observe the trial and eventually decided on a temporary suspension of the court session, after a massive disagreement among the audience.

Actions requested:

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

i. Drop all the charges against Ayşe Acinikli and Ramazan Demir as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at judicial level, against Ayşe Acinikli and Ramazan Demir, as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;

iii. Put an end to the crackdown on civil society under the pretext of countering terrorism and publicly recognise the legitimate role of human rights defenders in line with Turkey’s international commitments;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
- its Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;
- its Article 9, which provides that “in the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the promotion and protection of human rights as referred to in the present Declaration, […] everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, inter alia: […] (c) to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
- its Article 11, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession”.
- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. 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, Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi 06560 Beştepe-Ankara, Tel: (+90 312) 525 55 55, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31, E-mail: contact@tccb.gov.tr
• Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu tel: (0312) 422 10 00 ; Fax: +90 (312) 403 62 82
• Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, No: 8 Balgat / Ankara - Turkey 06100; Tel : +90 (312) 292 10 00
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ, 06659 Kizilay, Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 417 77 70; Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail: info@adalet.gov.tr
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Efkan Ala; tel: +90 (312) 422 40 00; Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30; Email: ozelkalem@icisleri.gov.tr
• Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
• Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28B 1211 Geneva 19, Tel: +41 22 918 50 80; 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.

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  • Co-signatories

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    Paris-Geneva, September 8, 2016

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

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

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