OBS calls Turkey to release jailed human rights defenders immediately, unconditionally

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme between the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has urged Turkey to release jailed human rights defenders in the country. The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these people and put an end to all forms of harassment against them, read a statement released by the Observatory on Saturday.

Acting on an anonymous tip Turkish police raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul on July 5,  2017, and detained İdil Eser from Amnesty International, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.

After interrogation at the anti-terror branch of the İstanbul Police Department, on July 17, the 12th day of their detention, the 10 human rights defenders, who are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, were referred to the İstanbul Courthouse. Six of the activists were subsequently arrested, while the court decided to release four of them on judicial probation. On July 21 İstanbul’s Adalar Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for the four human rights defenders, including Taştan and Özbekli, who were released by the court.

Below is the full text of the Observatory’s statement.

“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 ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ Assembly, Ms. İlknur Üstün, member of the Women’s Coalition, Mr. Veli Acu, member of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Ms. İdil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, member of the Citizens’ Assembly, Mr. Günal Kurşun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner, security consultants as well as of the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Nejat Taştan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative.

According to the information received, respectively on July 18, 2017, Mr. Veli Acu and Mr. Günal Kurşun, on July 31, 2017, Ms. İdil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Ms. Nalan Erkem , and on August 1, 2017 Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner were transferred to Silivri Prison in İstanbul, while Ms. İlknur Üstün remains detained in Ankara’s Sincan prison.

Messrs. Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun have been held in solitary confinement and a petition to share a cell was initially denied by Silivri Prison Administration for security reasons. However, at the time of publication of this Appeal, Mr. Günal Kurşun is no longer detained in solitary confinement.

Ms. İdil Eser, who does not have first degree family members, is only allowed to receive visits from her lawyers. Messrs. Ali Gharawi and Peter Steundtner, who were detained in solitary confinement for 3 days, are only allowed weekly one-hour visits from their lawyers.

In addition, on August 1, 2017, the Criminal Peace Judgeship in İstanbul refused to release Mr. Ali Gharavi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, and Ms. İdil Eser. A court will again review the remand into detention on August 18, 2017. Likewise, on August 9, 2017, the same court denied an objection to release of Ms. İlknur Üstün and Ms. Nalan Erkem and ordered the continuation of their pre-trial detention.

The Observatory recalls that the eight human rights defenders were arrested on July 5, 2017 in Büyükada, İstanbul and are facing charges for “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation without being a member.” They are remanded in detention pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and the subsequent deterioration of detention conditions of Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. İdil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün as well as the judicial harassment targeting Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, which only aims at silencing their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, in the context of an ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders in Turkey.

The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. İdil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün and to put an end to all form of harassment against the latter as well as Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli. (turkeypurge.com)

 

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