Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, has expressed his dismay at the prosecutor’s indictment against Turkish human rights defenders detained in July on “terror” charges.
“While I am obviously concerned about the human rights defenders and trainers unjustly targeted in this case, I am also deeply saddened at the chilling effect of these judicial actions on the many civil society actors who carry out invaluable work to further human rights protection in Turkey,” Muizniek has stated in his Twitter account on Wednesday.
His comments came after İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court’s acceptance of the indictment on human rights defenders including Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser, Amnesty International Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmuz Özbekli, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Ali Garani and Peter Steudtner on October 17.
Kılıç was arrested over his alleged links to the Gülen movement and he will be tried with a demand of a jail term between 7,5 years and 15 years. The other suspects have been accused of “aiding an armed terrorist organization” and also face between 7,5 years and 15 years in prison.
“I had already expressed dismay at the detention of Mr Kılıç, Ms Eser and the other human rights defenders and trainers referred to above, as illustrations of the worrying trend of judicial actions targeting the legitimate work of civil society activists in Turkey. However, nine of them remain in detention and they are all now on trial on spurious charges of membership of and/or aiding an armed organization, facing up to 15 years in prison,” stated Muizniek.
“Taner Kılıç, İdil Eser and the other human rights defenders and trainers referred to above should be released without delay and the criminal proceedings against them should be discontinued,” he added.
Ten human rights defenders were detained on July 5 while attending a workshop on the island of Büyükada, off Istanbul. On July 18, Eser, Dalkıran, Kurşun, Acu, Garani and Steudner were arrested while Üstün, Erkem, Taştan and Özbekli were released on judicial probation. However, the latter four were re-arrested on July 21.
The case of Kılıç, who was arrested on June 9 over his alleged links to the Gülen movement was added to the prosecutor’s indictment finalized on Oct. 8. The human rights defenders will stand trial in the first hearing on Oct. 25 in İstanbul.