Turkey: Continuing judicial harassment of 13 prominent human rights lawyers

20/03/2020
Urgent Appeal
en tr

TUR 003 / 0320 / OBS 020.1
Arbitrary detention /
Travel bans /
Judicial harassment
Turkey
March 20, 2020

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 intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing judicial harassment of 13 prominent human rights lawyers from Diyarbakır, Urfa and Şırnak, namely Messrs. Mesut Beştaş, Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay and Osman Çelik from the Diyarbakır Bar Association, Messrs. Hidayet Enmek, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz and Şeyhmus İnal from the Şanlıurfa Bar Association, and Mr. Gürgün Kadirhan from the Şırnak Bar Association, as well as the arbitrary detention of Ms.Sevda Özbingöl Çelik from the Şanlıurfa Bar Association.

According to the information received, on March 17, 2020, upon request from the Urfa Prosecutor’s Office, the peace judgeship issued a travel ban for Messrs. Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay, Osman Çelik, Hidayet Enmek, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz, Şeyhmus İnal and Gürgün Kadirhan. The 11 defenders were all released as a consequence of this decision. In parallel, the peace judgeship ordered the pre-trial detention of Ms. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, based on “her representation of individuals charged with membership to a terrorist organisation” as a lawyer and “her visits to the prison”. An anonymous witness, whose identity is kept secret, alleged that she was among the lawyers who supported the communication between the detainees. For his part, Mr. Mesut Beştaş hasn’t been taken into custody although there was an initial arrest order concerning him.

The Observatory firmly condemns the judicial harassment of Messrs. Mesut Beştaş, Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay, Osman Çelik, Hidayet Enmek, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz, Şeyhmus İnal, and Gürgün Kadirhan, and the arbitrary detention of Mr. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, which appear to be only aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities as human rights lawyers. The Observatory calls on the Turkish authorities to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey.

Background information:

Early in the morning of March 12, 2020, the houses and offices of Messrs. Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay, Osman Çelik, Hidayet Enmek, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz, Şeyhmus İnal and Gürgün Kadirhan were raided and they were all taken into police custody, within the scope of an investigation conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office in Urfa. Although, initially, there was an arrest order concerning Mr. Mesut Beştaş, he was not taken into custody. On the same day, police officers went to his office to ask for him but left after realising he was not there. No further measures were taken by the police to take him into custody so far. The thirteen lawyers are being accused with "assisting a terrorist organisation" (Article 220/7 of the Turkish Criminal Code) through enabling communication between detainees in prison. All lawyers’ computers and some case files in two lawyers’ offices were seized. All lawyers, except for Mesut Beştaş, were kept at Urfa Police Directorate until the Prosecutor’s Office in Urfa referred the case to a peace judgeship while requesting the arrest of Ms. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Turkey, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Mesut Beştaş, Özkan Avcı, Zeynep Işık, Bahar Oktay, Osman Çelik, Hidayet Enmek, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, Emrah Baran, Hüseyin İzol, Metin Özbadem, Cemo Tüysüz, Şeyhmus İnal and Gürgün Kadirhan and all human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv. Ensure the health and safety of Ms. Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, and all other detained human rights defenders, against the increasing threat of Covid-19, and consider all appropriate measures to protect their health and safety including their immediate release;

v. 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 and 12;

vi. 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 the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: +90 (312) 525 58 31. Email: contact@tccb.gov.tr
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül. Email: info@adalet.gov.tr. Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: diab@icisleri.gov.tr; sti@icisleri.gov.tr
• Ambassador Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50. Email: info@turkdeleg.org; tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr
• Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, March 20, 2020

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

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