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Celebrities join call on Turkey to release human rights defenders, still in jail after 100 days

    October 12, 2017
    Stars of stage and screen have added their voices to the global demand for the immediate and unconditional release of a group of prominent human rights defenders in Turkey, one hundred days after they were detained.
     
    More than 20 artists and celebrities, including Zoë Kravitz, Ben Stiller, Mark Ruffalo, Whoopi Goldberg and Zach Galifianakis, signed a letter sent by Amnesty International USA to the Turkish ambassador. They join a host of other celebrities including Annie Lennox, Bono, Peter Gabriel, Juliette Binoche, Jane Birkin, Angélique Kidjo, and Patrick Stewart, who have called for the release of the activists that include Amnesty International’s Turkey Director, İdil Eser, and Chair, Taner Kiliç.
     
    Ten activists were arrested on 5 July whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. On 4 October a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders on absurd and trumped up terrorism charges.
     
    “One hundred days ago our colleagues were locked up for standing up for human rights. Every passing day further exposes the long reach of the post-coup crackdown and the deep flaws in Turkey’s justice system,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
     
    “The indictment is a toxic mix of innuendo and untruth which does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. It repeats ludicrous and contradictory allegations which have no place in any self-respecting courtroom.”
     
    After three months the investigation has unsurprisingly failed to provide any incriminating evidence to substantiate the prosecutor’s fantastical charges. Nor has it shown how the supposedly secret ‘Buyukada meeting’ relates to terrorism in any way.
     
    The activists are accused of assisting a variety of ‘armed terrorist organisations’ with diametrically opposing ideologies and face maximum sentences of 15 years. The charges against them include outlandish claims that standard human rights activities such as appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application or campaigning for the release of hunger striking teachers, were carried out on behalf of terrorist organisations.
     
    Some of the claims against İdil are based on Amnesty International documents and public communications that predate her appointment at the organization.
     
    In the coming days, Amnesty International activists in more than 25 countries will hold more than 200 parties and stunts to mark İdil‘s birthday. These will range from a birthday party in the European Parliament to a press conference in a makeshift prison in Madrid. Full-size paper cutouts of Idil will be present at these activities to highlight her absence.
     
    “Rounding up human rights defenders was clearly intended to send a message that dissent will not be tolerated. But the courage of İdil Eser and her colleagues and the support they have garnered around the world has sent a brighter message: that critical voices cannot be silenced,” said John Dalhuisen.
     
    “The Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned defenders and end the brutal post-coup crackdown that is ravaging the country.”
     
    For more information or to arrange an interview contact Stefan Simanowitz on press@amnesty.org or stefan.simanowitz@amnesty.org or 0044 (0) 20 7413 5566
     
    To find out more about the activities happening around the world search the hashtag #PartyWithIdil
     
    Background
    A letter sent to the Turkish Ambassador to the US, Serdar Kiliç, was published today co-signed by Zoë Kravitz, Nazanin Boniadi, Don Cheadle, Marisa Tomei, Adam McKay, Paul Haggis, Joshua Malina, Fisher Stevens, Claire Danes, Ben Stiller, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Farrell, Eva Orner, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Roth, Kathy Najimy, Mark Ruffalo, Zach Galifianakis, Bruce Cohen, Shira Piven, Mike White, Tim Kring, and James McAvoy. https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/celebrities-call-on-turkey-to-release-amnesty-director-and-chair-still-in-jail-after-100-days/
    A letter published in La Liberation in France included more than 20 celebrity signatories http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2017/07/17/appel-pour-la-liberation-d-idil-eser-et-des-defenseurs-des-droits-humains-en-turquie_1584443
     
    Other celebrities have tweeted their support for the #Istanbul10 including Annie Lennox https://twitter.com/AnnieLennox/status/884412324299370496
    The Istanbul 10 were attending a workshop on wellbeing and digital security on 5 July when police raided the building and detained them all. They were held in Istanbul’s police headquarters until 18 July when they appeared before a judge following the prosecutor’s request that they be sent to prison pending their trial. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/09/who-are-the-istanbul-ten-and-why-have-they-been-imprisoned-in-turkey/
    The eight jailed human rights defenders are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (IT strategy consultant), Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer) and İlknur Üstün (Women's Coalition) and Nalan Erkem,(Citizens’ Assembly). Two other human rights defenders arrested at the same time were released on bail. They are Şeyhmus Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and Nejat Taştan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights).
    Taner Kılıç, the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained on 6 June and accused of membership of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization” on the basis of the unfounded allegation that he downloaded the ByLock secure messaging application. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/06/chair-of-amnesty-international-turkey-swept-up-in-post-coup-purge/