Turkish prosecutors launched over 1.5 million terrorism-related investigations between 2016 and 2020: report

Public prosecutors initiated 1.576 million investigations on allegations of terrorism between 2016 and 2020, concluding 208,833 of them, the BirGün daily reported, citing the 2020 statistics published by the Justice Ministry.

Speaking to Zilan Akay of BirGün, lawyer Bilgin Yeşilboğaz said the number of investigations is so high because of the vague definition of terrorism in Turkish law.

“The definition of terrorism constantly changes in [Turkey],” Yeşilboğaz said. “Every action we take or statement we make is considered not in terms of freedom of thought or expression but in terms of terrorism.”

According to Yeşilboğaz, it is impossible from a legal perspective to have so many terrorism-related cases. “The numbers would be much lower if international criteria were used to determine which acts should be considered part of terrorism-related crimes,” she said. “The government considers anything against it to be terrorism. … In this country, you can be a terrorist in an instant.”

The Turkish government has been widely criticized for misusing the vague and imprecise charge of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” to target critics of its policies and to criminalize legitimate activities.

In August 2020 UN rapporteurs sent a joint letter  to the Turkish government to underline that Ankara’s anti-terror law (No. 3713) does not comply with its international law obligations and that the country’s anti-terror legal framework should be urgently revised.

Similarly, the vice chair of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and three special rapporteurs sent a letter to the Turkish government in November 2020 saying that terrorism-related charges appear to be repeatedly misused to target the government’s critics.

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