Turkey: Ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Taner Kılıç and 10 HRDs

11/12/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 005 / 0717 / OBS 078.7
Judicial harassment
Turkey
December 10, 2019

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 ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Taner Kılıç, founding member and Honorary Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, and the “Istanbul 10”, Messrs. Veli Acu, member of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Günal Kurşun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner, security consultants, Nejat Taştan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, and Şeyhmus Özbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative, as well was Mses. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ Assembly, İlknur Üstün, member of the Women’s Coalition, Idil Eser, former Director of Amnesty International Turkey, and Özlem Dalkıran, member of the Citizens’ Assembly.

According to the information received, on November 27, 2019, during the 10th hearing of their case, the Prosecutor suggested Istanbul’s 35th High Criminal Court to convict Messrs. Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan and Mses. Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran over charges of “assisting an armed terrorist organisation”, under Articles 220/7 and 314/2 of the Penal Code as well as Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law no. 3713. Additionally, Mr. Taner Kılıç was asked to be convicted of “membership of a terrorist organisation” under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code as well as Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law no. 3713. If convicted, the six human rights defenders may face up to 15 years of prison. Their lawyers stated in the hearing that the Prosecutor’s considerations do not have any incriminating basis and are only based on incidents including depositing money to a bank that is allegedly connected to a terrorist organisation, and being in contact with and making bank transfers to individuals allegedly connected to terrorist organisations. One of those, for instance, was a bank transfer for the payment of legal fees. The lawyers also underlined that the Prosecutor’s considerations do not take into account any evidence submitted to the Court following the issuance of the indictment, such as acquittal from terrorism charges of some of those individuals, who were allegedly connected to terrorist organisations.

On the other hand, the Prosecutor also recommended the acquittal of Messrs. Ali Gharawi, Peter Steudtner, Şeyhmus Özbekli and Mses. Nalan Erkem and İlknur Üstün. The next hearing will be held on February 19, 2020, for the defendants defence statements against the Prosecutor’s considerations. If convicted over this “terrorism” charges, the defendants who are lawyers, Messrs. Taner Kılıç and Şeyhmus Özbekli and Ms. Nalan Erkem, could also lose their lawyer accreditation.

The Observatory recalls that the “Istanbul 10” were first arrested in July 2017 following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Human Rights Joint Platform in Büyükada, and that Mr. Taner Kılıç spent more than 14 months in arbitrary detention before being released in August 2018 (see background information).

The Observatory firmly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Taner Kılıç and the “Istanbul 10”, as it seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against 11 above-mentioned human rights defenders, and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them and all the human rights defenders in Turkey.

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 [1], Istanbul, following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Human Rights Joint Platform 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 5, 2017, the ten human rights defenders were transferred to Istanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan street. During the health examination in Büyükada police station, ten human rights defenders reported 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 [2]).

On the night of July 5, 2017, ten human rights defenders were transferred from Büyükada to different police stations in the Asian side of Istanbul. Mr. Günal Kurşun and Mr. Veli Acu, having been transferred to Maltepe Topselvi Police Station, reported that while being transferred from the police station to the health examination on the night of July 6, 2017, they were handcuffed, and Mr. Günal Kurşun had bruises on his wrists because of handcuffing. After Mr. Günal Kurşun warned the doctor about the situation, the doctor reported the bruises caused by handcuffing and conducted the health examination in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules).

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 the investigation remained confidential for a while, lawyers could not 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 a.m. on July 25 at the İstanbul Courthouse, which eventually ordered his release on judicial control [3].

On July 25, Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli appeared at the Diyarbakır Court House, where the Judge also ordered his release on judicial control. They were both under obligation to show up at the police station twice a week and a travel ban was 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.

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.

On October 16, 2017, 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.

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.

On October 25, 2017, the Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul ordered the provisional release of Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem and Ms. İlknur Üstün. However, the court ordered a travel ban against Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Veli Acu, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli. Additionally, the Court subjected Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Mr. Veli Acu to a judicial control. They both had to report twice a month to police stations. The judicial control over Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli was also lifted on October 25, 2017, however, police stations were only notified of the lift on October 27, 2017.

On October 26, 2017, a Court in Izmir ordered the continued pre-trial detention of Mr. Taner Kılıç, pending further investigation.

On January 31, 2018, Istanbul’s 35th High Criminal Court ordered the release of Taner Kılıç under travel ban. However, the Prosecutor appealed the Court’s decision to Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court, which then issued a new arrest warrant for Taner Kılıç. Mr. Taner Kılıç was eventually released on August 15, 2018, upon decision of Istanbul’s 35th High Criminal Court.

Actions requested:
 
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against the above-mentioned 11 human rights defenders;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the above mentioned 11 human rights defenders, as well as all the human rights defenders in Turkey, so that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Refrain from abusing anti-terrorism legislation for the purposes of suppressing dissent and in particular for persecuting the human rights defenders in Turkey;

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
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül, E-mail: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu, Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30
• H.E. Mr. Kaymakci Faruk, Ambassador, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, E-mail: tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
• H.E. Mr. Sadık Arslan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country. 
 
***
Paris-Geneva, December 10, 2019
 
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

[1] Citizens Assembly, Human Rights Agenda Association and Amnesty International Turkey are members of the Human Rights Joint Platform.
[2] http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/175
[3] The Observatory underlines that Mr. Nejat Taştan is a disabled person at 52%, which means that he needs careful treatment and therefore his conditions could only worsen in detention.

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