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.
The ordeal that began in the summer of 2017 is continuing for Taner, İdil, Özlem and Günal. The news of their arrest in June and July 2017 sent shockwaves across the world. Taner was unjustly imprisoned for over 14 months, İdil, Özlem and Günal spent more than three months in Silivri High-Security prison.
The repercussions of this case reach far beyond the four human rights defenders who have been convicted. Their conviction in this baseless trial represents a shocking example of the authorities’ attempt to criminalize the defence of human rights with implications for everyone in Turkey. This injustice has become a stark symbol of the massive crackdown on human rights and on those who defend them.
The journey that our colleagues in Turkey have been on has been a long and arduous one. From day one, we have been inspired by the steadfastness and resilience that these human rights defenders have demonstrated. We will not give up now.
We asked them for their initial thoughts about the appeals court ruling.
“Since the beginning of this prosecution, we didn’t and couldn’t think we were subject to a fair trial, as there were many elements showing this was not the case. But this decision of the regional appeals court has added insult to injury. The unfair prosecution of human rights defenders has entered the final bend on the road at great speed.”
“The pathetic state of the Turkish judiciary is well reflected in all our court decisions. From the indictment to the appeal decision, we were handed the exact same text, even the typos! None of our statements, the witnesses nor the evidence were taken into account. From a right they have created a crime. During the 3.5 years of prosecution the only text that cared for the rule of law was the dissenting opinion of one of the three trial judges. This is not only true for Büyükada case, it is the current spirit of Turkish justice system. Trying to silence human rights defenders through judicial harassment never works anywhere in the world. Because we are right, not them! We have massive resilience that is powered by our struggle to defend justice and the rights of everyone and everything that we share this planet with.”
“This decision is saddening but not surprising, given the fact that, for a long time, the regional appeals courts are operating as a rubberstamping authority on Heavy Penal Court rulings and leaving the examination of politically motivated prosecutions such as ours to the Court of Cassation. The decision was also very speedy, compared to other examples in Turkey. I want to believe that this speed is not aiming at a speedy decision of the Court of Cassation, while applications to the Constitutional Court and to the European Court of Human Rights are pending, motivated by the wish to imprison people and keep them there.”
“I want all human rights defenders around the world to know that I am not giving up. These convictions are meaningless to me. Because I have not committed a crime, I don’t have anything to pay for; I am not someone that can be tamed. I am a criminal law expert and a human rights defender. I will continue the work I have been doing for the last 23 years. I also know that one day, I will defend the rights of those who have convicted me today. Onwards for the struggle for human rights.”