Turkey: Ten human rights defenders indicted on terrorism charges

18/07/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 005 / 0717 / OBS 078.2

Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Release on bail /
Restriction to
freedom of movement
Turkey
July 18, 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 ten human rights defenders, namely: 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 [1], Mr. Günal Kurşun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner, security consultants, Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens Assembly, Ms. İlknur Üstün, member of the Women’s Coalition, Mr. Nejat Taştan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights and Mr. Şeyhmuz Özbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative.

According to the information received, on July 18, 2017, the Public Prosecutor at Çağlayan Court House indicted the ten human rights defenders on charges of “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation without being a member”. However, to date, 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.

The Observatory recalls that the ten human rights defenders were arrested on July 5, 2017, following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Citizens Assembly in Büyükada, Istanbul (see background information).

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. Şeyhmuz Özbekli, who must show up to the police station three times a week. They have also been imposed a ban on travels abroad.

The six other defenders were all remanded in pre-trial detention. To date, Ms. Idil Eser and Ms. Özlem Dalkıran are detained at Istanbul’s Bakirköy prison for women, while Mr. Veli Acu and Mr. Günal Kurşun are being held at Istanbul’s Metris prison for men, and Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner at Istanbul’s Maltepe prison, which has a section dedicated to foreign detainees.

The Observatory is extremely concerned by the indictment 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 and Mr. Şeyhmuz Özbekli on trumped-up charges, which only aims at sentencing 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 and Mr. Peter Steudtner and to put an end to all form of harassment against the latter as well as Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün, Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmuz Özbekli.

Background information:

On July 5, 2017, Nalan Erkem, Özlem Dalkıran, İlknur Üstün, Idil Eser, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmuz 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 Şeyhmuz Özbekli 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.

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 [4].

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 and Peter Steudtner, 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 and Peter Steudtner 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 Şeyhmuz Özbekli, so that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Immediately lift the travel ban in force against Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmuz Özbekli and put an end to all forms of restriction to their freedom of movement;

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, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;

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 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, July 18, 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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