Turkey: Ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of ten human rights defenders

12/08/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 005 / 0717 / OBS 078.4

Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
Turkey
August 11, 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 ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ Assembly [1], Ms. Ilknur Ustun, 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. Ozlem Dalkıran, member of the Citizens’ Assembly, Mr. Gunal Kursun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner, security consultants as well as of the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Nejat Tastan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights and Mr. Seyhmus Ozbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative.

According to the information received, 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, while Ms. İlknur Üstün remains detained in Ankara’s Sincan prison.

Messrs. Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun have been held in solitary confinement and a petition to share a cell was initially denied by Silivri Prison Administration for security reasons. However, at the time of publication of this Appeal, Mr. Günal Kurşun is no longer detained in solitary confinement.

Ms. Idil Eser, who does not have first degree family members, is only allowed to receive visits from her lawyers. Messrs. Ali Gharawi and Peter Steundtner, who were detained in solitary confinement for 3 days, are only allowed weekly one-hour visits from their lawyers.

In addition, on August 1, 2017, the Criminal Peace Judgeship in Istanbul refused to release Mr. Ali Gharavi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, and Ms. İdil Eser. A court will again review the remand into detention on August 18, 2017. Likewise, on August 9, 2017, the same court denied an objection to release of Ms. İlknur Üstün and Ms. Nalan Erkem and ordered the continuation of their pre-trial detention.

The Observatory recalls that the eight human rights defenders were arrested on July 5, 2017 in Büyükada, Istanbul and are facing charges for “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation without being a member” (see background information). They are remanded in detention pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and the subsequent deterioration of detention conditions 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 as well as the judicial harassment targeting Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. 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 [2].

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 to put an end to all form of harassment against the latter as well as Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli.

Background information:

On July 5, 2017, Nalan Erkem, Özlem Dalkıran, İlknur Üstün, Idil Eser, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner were arrested and detained in different police stations across Büyükada, following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Citizens Assembly in Büyükada, Istanbul. 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 where 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, Nalan Erkem, Özlem Dalkıran, İlknur Üstün, Idil Eser, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan and 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 have referred to any specific organisation nor to any criminal provision. Moreover, 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, who must show up to the police station three times a week. They have also been imposed a ban on travels abroad.

On July 21, 2017, the Public Prosecutor at Çağlayan Court House ordered the re-arrest of Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, who had been released on judicial control on July 17, 2017.

On July 21, 2017, Ms. Nalan Erkem was arrested at her house and taken to Vatan Security Directorate before being presented to Çağlayan Court House. She is now being detained at the Bakırköy prison for women.

On July 22, 2017, Ms. İlknur Üstün was arrested at his home in Ankara and detained at the anti-terror branch in Ankara before being presented to Ankara Court House and further detained at Ankara’s Sincan prison. She is expected to be transferred to Istanbul. According to the arrest warrant presented, Ms. Üstün was arrested under articles 220.6 and 312.2/3 of the Turkish Criminal Code, although she had previously been charged under article 220.7 of the Turkish Penal Code for allegedly “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation”.

On July 24, 2017 afternoon, Mr. Nejat Taştan went to the Posecutor’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 two times a week and a travel ban has been imposed on them.

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, 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 Veli Acu, Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Ali Gharawi, Peter Steudtner, Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Veli Acu, Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Ali Gharawi, Peter Steudtner, Nalan Erkem and İlknur Üstün 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 Veli Acu, Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Ali Gharawi, Peter Steudtner, Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli, 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, August 11, 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: +33143552518/+33143551880 • Tel and fax OMCT: +41228094939/+41228094929

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