TURKEY: Judicial harassment of Pinar Selek continues as Istanbul Heavy Penal Court decides to amend her acquittal and request her conviction

Urgent Appeal
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Paris-Geneva, November 27, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is deeply appalled by the last decision of Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 to amend Pinar Selek’s acquittal. The 14-year old judicial ordeal faced by the activist may therefore continue several more years.

On November 22, 2012, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 decided to amend its previous decision to acquit Ms. Pinar Selek, a writer and sociologist who has been actively defending the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey, in a criminal case that has been ongoing since 1998. In addition, the Presiding Judge, who was replacing the ordinary presiding judge on sick leave, requested the condemnation of Pinar Selek to life imprisonment before setting a new date for a hearing on December 13, 2012 to hear the observations of the accused. According to defence lawyers, this decision is unprecedented in Turkish legal history.

The Observatory recalls that, in 1998, Pinar Selek was in turn accused without proof of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and then of causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9 of the same year. On the basis of these accusations, she was detained and subjected to torture and ill-treatment during two years, until her provisional release in 2000.

The court’s investigations largely confirmed the absence of any bomb and attributed the explosion to a gas leak; in addition the other defendant in the case who had accused her during interrogation withdrew his statement during the trial. Accordingly, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and for the last time on February 9, 2011. Nonetheless, following appeals by the Prosecutor, the Court of Cassation quashed the first two acquittal decisions. As of today, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12’s last decision of acquittal made in 2011 has not been examined by the Court of Cassation and has therefore the effect of res judicata. Therefore, by amending one of its own rulings, Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 has unlawfully used its powers in violation of Articles 223, 287 and 307/3 of the Penal Procedure Code.

In consequence of the above, the judicial harassment may potentially continue several more years though there is no evidence incriminating Pinar Selek. The Observatory recalls that as a consequence of this judicial harassment and under the threat of a new arbitrary arrest, her life and work in Turkey has been severely disrupted.

“Not only does the court decision violate Turkish law, in that it blatantly disregards the authority of its own decisions as res judicata, but it also violates the right to a fair trial as well as the right to freedom of expression, laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Turkey. The endless delays in rendering justice clearly amount to a denial of justice!”, denounced Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

“This judicial harassment is unprecedented. If the Court confirms this decision, we can conclude that there is no more legal certainty in Turkey”, added Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “We firmly condemn this decision, and call upon the judiciary authorities of Turkey to review it immediately”, he concluded.

More generally, the Observatory further reiterates its call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to the uninterrupted harassment that has been targeting Pinar Selek for more than 14 years, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning her for her legitimate exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression.

For further information, please contact:
· FIDH : Arthur Manet, + 33 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 49 39

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