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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the remand in custody of Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli, members of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Ozgurlukcu Hukukcular Dernegi – OHD), pending the next hearing in their trial, scheduled for September 7, 2016.
According to the information received, 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.
The hearing of June 22 was monitored by Mr. Martin Pradel, lawyer at the Paris Bar Association, within the framework of a trial observation mandated by the Observatory.
In the course of that 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.
The Observatory strongly condemns the remand in custody of Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli, and calls upon the Turkish authorities to release them immediately and unconditionally as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims 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.
The Observatory recalls that their arbitrary arrest and detention is part of wide-range anti-terrorism operationscurrently taking place in Turkey. Such operations turned into a massive crackdown on some civil society organisations depicted as “terrorist networks”. This campaign has been targeting dozens of peaceful activists who have been involved in the monitoring of human rights violations resulting from anti-terrorism operations and who have been advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue . These peaceful activists include human rights defenders, particularly Human Rights Association (IHD) members, lawyers, political party representatives and journalists  (see background information).
The Observatory finally draws the attention of the Turkish authorities on the Principle of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular Principles 16, 18, and 20 on Guarantees for the functioning of lawyers, and Principle 23 on Freedom of expression and association.
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”.
Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:
i. Release Mr. Ramazan Demir and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli immediately and unconditionally, as their detention is arbitrary since it only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;
ii. Rectify the decision to make the case file against Mr. Demir’s and Ms. Acinkli’s confidential, so as to uphold the equality of arms principle;
iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. İrfan Arasan, Ayşe Acinikli, Hüseyin Boğatekin, Şefik Çelik, Adem Çalışçı, Ayşe BaşarTamer Doğan, Ramazan Demir and Mustafa Ruzgar, and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli and Ms. Ayşe Gösterişlioğlu as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;
iv. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at judicial level, against Messrs. İrfan Arasan, Ayşe Acinikli, Hüseyin Boğatekin, Şefik Çelik, Adem Çalışçı, Ayşe BaşarTamer Doğan, Ramazan Demir and Mustafa Ruzgar, and Ms. Ayşe Acinikli and Ms. Ayşe Gösterişlioğlu, as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;
v. 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;
vi. 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”;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.
· 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
· 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: email@example.com
· Minister of Interior, Mr. Efkan Ala; tel: +90 (312) 422 40 00;Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30;Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· 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: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Turkey in your respective country.