Turkey: Indictment on terrorism charges of 11 human rights defenders

17/10/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 005 / 0717 / OBS 078.5

Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Turkey
October 17, 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 indictment on terrorism charges of Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ AssemblyThe 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., 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, Mr. Nejat Taştan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative.

According to the information received, 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.

Moreover, 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. He is also facing 15 years’ imprisonment. Mr. Taner Kılıç, founding member of Amnesty International Turkey and Chair of its Board of Directors since 2014, has been detained since June 6, 2017 [1].

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 first hearing is scheduled on October 25, 2017.

As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner remained detained in Silivri prison in Istanbul, Mr. Taner Kılıç in T type closed Prison in Izmir, and Ms. İlknur Üstün in Ankara’s Sincan prison.

Several petitions to release Mr. Ali Gharavi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Ms. İdil Eser, Ms. İlknur Üstün and Ms. Nalan Erkem have been denied by the Criminal Court of Peace in Istanbul since their arrest on July 5, including on September 18, 2017.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, and Mr. Taner Kılıç as well as the judicial harassment of Messrs. Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli, which only aims at silencing their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, in the context of an ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders in Turkey.

The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, and Mr. Taner Kılıç, and to put an end to all form of harassment against them as well as against Messrs. Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli.

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 [2] 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 [3]).

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 of today the investigation remains confidential and lawyers cannot 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 [4].

On July 25, Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli appeared at the Diyarbakır Court House, where the Judge also ordered his release on judicial control. Both must show up at the police station twice a week and a travel ban has been 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.

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 [5] .

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of 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 as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün and Mr. Taner Kılıç as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. 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;

iv. 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;

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, 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 17, 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

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