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Turkey

    December 10, 2020

    A regional appeals court in Turkey ruled to uphold the baseless convictions of Taner Kılıç, İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, four of the 11 human rights defenders in the Büyükada case. 

    In many cases these appeals decisions can take up to a year. The Büyükada first appeal decision took less than four months. This is unusually fast. 

    The decision does not contain the detailed reasoning expected from appeals courts and reads as a rubber stamp of the trial verdict. With this appeal court ruling, a crucial first opportunity to correct the wrong done in the trial verdict was sadly lost. 

    Now, all four will take their appeals to the Court of Cassation, the highest appeal court in Turkey. We will continue to urge for their convictions to be overturned. 

    December 07, 2020

    Leading human rights organizations have come together to demand the acquittal of 19 human rights defenders for their participation in a Pride parade in 2019, ahead of the verdict expected on Thursday.

    The 18 students and an academic at the Middle East Technical University (METU) are facing prison sentences of up to three years simply for organizing and participating in a Pride march on campus that the University management had unlawfully banned.

    “In the summer of 2019, students and others peacefully participating in a celebration of love and solidarity were met with police pepper spray, plastic bullets and tear gas. Nineteen of them have also been dragged through the courts on baseless criminal charges and face absurd jail sentences,” said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

    “The ban of the Pride march lacked legal grounds and these brave students who defied it had their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly violated. They must be acquitted.”

    October 09, 2020

    Following the acceptance of a new indictment by the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No.36 against civil society leader Osman Kavala, Amnesty International’s Europe Director Nils Muiznieks said:

    “Having been in prison for almost three years, Osman Kavala is now facing a new trial under an absurd new charge of ‘espionage’. With this new indictment, Osman Kavala faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole as well as up to an additional 20 years for ‘espionage’. Kafkaesque is an overused cliché but in the case of Osman Kavala, it is chillingly apt.”

    “The European Court of Human Rights ruled last December that Osman Kavala’s prolonged pre-trial detention was unlawful and served an ‘ulterior purpose’. Yet, Turkey refuses to implement the binding judgment and to release him.

    “Once again, we call on Turkey to end the shameful injustice that Osman Kavala has been subjected to, by freeing him from prison and dropping these manifestly vindictive proceedings against him.”

    July 09, 2020
    The verdict

    On 3 July 2020 the first instance court issued its verdict on the Büyükada case. It convicted Taner Kılıç of ‘membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)’ under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code, sentencing him to six years and three months’ imprisonment. The court convicted İdil Eser, Günal Kursun and Özlem Dalkıran for ‘knowingly and willingly supporting FETÖ’ under Article 220/7 of the Penal Code, sentencing each of them to 25 months’ imprisonment. The remaining seven human rights defenders were acquitted.

    July 03, 2020

    Following a majority court ruling to convict Taner Kılıç for ‘membership of the Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization’ and to convict Özlem Dalkıran, İdil Eser and Günal Kurşun for ‘assisting the Fethullah Gülenterrorist organization’, Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher who observed the hearing said: 

    “Today, we have borne witness to a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict is a crushing blow not only for Taner, Özlem, İdil and Günal and their families but for everyone who believes in justice, and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond.

    “The decision of the court is staggering. During 12 court hearings, each and every allegation has been comprehensively exposed as a baseless slur. The court’s verdict defies logic and exposes this three-year trial as the politically motivated attempt to silence independent voices it was from day one.”  

    June 18, 2020

    This virus won’t kill me; what will kill me is your system. 

    Lorry driver Malik Yılmaz

    Corona virus is devastating lives worldwide, whether because of the illness itself or the social and economic impact of lockdowns and other government measures. Everywhere, the poorest are being hit hardest. In Turkey, the authorities are making the situation worse by using the pandemic as an excuse to further stifle the right to freedom of expression. They are hounding social media users, journalists, doctors and others, and invoking legal provisions that criminalize dissent, in efforts to silence their critics.

    Crackdown on social media

    Around 54 million people use social media in Turkey, nearly two-thirds of the population. The country ranks seventh on the list of active Twitter users (13.6 million people) and tops the list for legal requests by the state to remove content.

    May 11, 2020

    Top row (left to right): Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Veli Acu, Peter Steudtner

    Middle row (left to right): Idil Eser, Ali Gharavi, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli,

    Bottom row (left to right): Günal Kurşun, Özlem Dalkıran, Taner Kılıç

    Nalan Erkem is a lawyer. She was a member of the board of directors of the İzmir Bar Association from 2002-2004 when she supported “The Role of Lawyers in the Prevention of Torture” project. As a member of the Citizens’ Assembly she has been undertaking key consultancy roles and served as member of its Board of Directors. She has also been a member of Amnesty International Turkey since its early days in 2001. She undertook many significant human rights projects and has written and published several reports based on her work.

    May 06, 2020

    On 3 July 2020 - three years after they were first detained - 11 human rights activists will hear a court’s verdict on charges which could result in jail terms of up to 15 years. One fundamental truth is beyond any doubt: they have done nothing wrong.

    What have they done?

    They have done nothing wrong. They stood up for human rights in Turkey. 

    The 11 - that includes the former chair, ex-director and several members of Amnesty Turkey as well as women’s and equality advocates – face absurd ‘terrorism’ charges without any credible evidence being presented over the course of ten hearings.

    Since their detention in 2017, more than two million people around the world – from Ai Wei Wei to Whoopi Goldberg - have spoken out for justice for the 11 rights defenders. Now as this unfair trial is coming to a close, we are asking you to join us in adding your voice and send a message of solidarity to the 11 activists ahead of the verdict.

    After all, when people who defend our rights are silenced, we are all at risk.

    When were they arrested and what are they accused of?

    March 04, 2020

    Ahead of a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Moscow tomorrow (Thursday 5 March) to discuss the escalating military conflict in Idlib in Syria, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

    “The Moscow summit represents an opportunity for Russia and Turkey to prioritize the safety of civilians.

    “The fate of almost one million people forced from their homes now hangs in the balance as this meeting goes ahead.

    “After nine years of fighting characterized by utter disregard for civilians’ lives, new attacks in Idlib - including the ongoing targeting of schools and hospitals - is causing more untold misery to civilians, many of whom have already been forced to flee multiple times in this humanitarian horror story.

    “As a matter of priority, Russia and Turkey should pressure the Syrian government to end attacks on civilians to avoid escalating deaths and injuries and further displacement.

    February 28, 2020

    Following reports that Turkey is allowing asylum-seekers to depart its territory and attempt to enter the European Union particularly Greece and Bulgaria, Amnesty International’s Deputy Research Director, Massimo Moratti, said: 

    “What we are seeing now at Turkey’s land and sea borders with the EU is that people seeking asylum are once again being used as bargaining chips in a deadly political game, a predictable consequence of the EU-Turkey deal. 

    “EU member states need to do far more to share responsibility for refugees arriving in Turkey, both through financial support and ensuring safe pathways to Europe.

    February 18, 2020

    The decision to detain Osman Kavala on new charges merely hours after a court ordered his release must be immediately reversed and he must be immediately set free, said Amnesty International.

    “This decision smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty. To have been granted release after almost two-and-a-half years behind bars only to have the door to freedom so callously slammed in his face is a devastating blow for Osman Kavala, his family and all who stand for justice in Turkey,” said Milena Buyum Amnesty International Turkey Campaigner.

    “This latest episode of malicious detention has dashed the hopes of Osman Kavala and those of his family who were waiting to welcome him into their arms.

    “This cynical and outrageous re-detention only deepens our resolve to continue to fight on Osman Kavala’s behalf. It is time for Turkey to end the relentless crackdown on dissenting voices. Osman Kavala must be immediately released from prison and the witch hunt against him ended.”

    February 18, 2020

    Following the acquittal of Osman Kavala and eight other defendants in the so-called ‘Gezi trial’, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum said:

    “Today’s decision is hugely welcome and confirms what has been clear to the entire world for more than two years.

    “The only just verdict in this baseless case, devoid of any substance, was always going to be the wholesale acquittal of those who stood trial, but in today’s Turkey this was far from guaranteed.

    “After almost two and a half years in prison, it is wonderful that Osman Kavala will finally walk free. While the injustice of his lengthy incarceration cannot be erased, this remains a huge relief for civil society in Turkey.

    “Today’s judgement was a touchstone for Turkish justice and we hope it signals a shift in political climate in the country and brings to an end these politically motivated prosecutions. We also hope this decision bodes well ahead of tomorrow’s critical verdict for 11 human rights activists, including former Amnesty leaders, who face sentences of up to 15 years.

    February 18, 2020
    Eyes of the world on Istanbul as verdict expected after two-and-a-half years Celebrities and politicians join two million people to demand justice High-level Amnesty International delegation to hear verdict against their former Turkey chair and former director

    A verdict is expected tomorrow in the cases of 11 human rights defenders, including the former leadership and several members of Amnesty Turkey, who have spent more than two-and-a-half years fighting trumped-up charges and could face up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty. 

    Ahead of the hearing, which resumes tomorrow in Istanbul, Amnesty International said only acquittal of all could deliver justice for the 11 activists arrested in the summer of 2017 on baseless terrorism charges. Amnesty Turkey’s former Chair, Taner Kılıç, former Director, Idil Eser, and several other members of Amnesty Turkey are among the human rights defenders on trial.

    January 27, 2020
    Amnesty spokespeople in court and available for interview

    Ahead of tomorrow’s third hearing in the trial of civil society leader Osman Kavala and 15 others on trumped up charges of ‘attempting to overthrow the government’, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum said:

    “This prosecution is a shameful attempt to silence independent civil society and part of a wider ongoing crackdown on rights defenders.

    Osman Kavala should not have spent a single minute behind bars let alone more than two years in pre-trial detention.

    “He, and 15 others, are facing spurious accusations devoid of any evidence that they were involved in any criminal activity, let alone conspiring to overthrow the government.”

    “He must be immediately and unconditionally released from jail and the charges against him and the 15 other civil society figures dropped.

    “A month after the European Court of Human Rights called on Turkey to release Osman Kavala immediately, every passing day he spends behind bars further compounds the violation of his rights.

    November 27, 2019

    Following a request by the State Prosecutor for the conviction of Amnesty Turkey’s honorary chair, Taner Kılıç, former director İdil Eser and four other human rights defenders on terrorism-related charges, Marie Struthers Europe, Director for Amnesty International, said: 

    “Today’s vindictive request by the State Prosecutor for jail terms of up to 15 years ignores the evidence and defies all logic.

    “The terrorist allegations made against Taner, İdil and four others have been repeatedly disproven over the course of nine previous hearings and it is clear today, as it has been from the start, that the Istanbul 10 and Taner are on trial for nothing more than their human rights work. They must be acquitted.”

    If convicted, they risk up to 15 years imprisonment. The next, and presumably final trial hearing, is set to take place on 19 February 2020.

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