Turkey: Rights defenders prosecuted for standing up for press freedom acquitted
Following the acquittal of two prominent human rights defenders and a writer prosecuted for participating in a solidarity campaign for a Kurdish daily newspaper, Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner said:
“It is a relief that this ordeal for Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin is finally over. After almost three years of a baseless prosecution, these three human rights defenders, who stood up for press freedom by expressing solidarity with persecuted journalists, have finally been acquitted.
The absurd charges levelled against them were clearly intended to silence and intimidate rights defenders, journalists, and wider civil society in Turkey
“It was clear from the start that this case should never have seen the light of day. The absurd charges levelled against them, and scores of others who also took part in the solidarity campaign, were clearly intended to silence and intimidate rights defenders, journalists, and wider civil society in Turkey.
The authorities must immediately drop the cases against everyone who has been charged and end the judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Turkey
“Whilst we celebrate their acquittal, others who also expressed solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper, were convicted and some have even served their sentences. The authorities must immediately drop the cases against everyone who has been charged and end the judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Turkey.”
Erol Önderoğlu (Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey and International Press Institute member), Şebnem Korur Fincancı (Chair of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey) and writer Ahmet Nesin were detained in 2016 after symbolically guest editing a publication for a day as part of a solidarity campaign for the now shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper.
In all, of the 56 people who took part in the solidarity campaign, 49 were subjected to criminal proceedings. Of those, 38 people were eventually prosecuted for their participation in the solidarity campaign for one day as symbolic editors of the Özgür Gündem newspaper.
Of the 31 people whose trials have concluded, four were acquitted, with 27 receiving a total of over 24 years in prison and 67,000 TL (approximately 10,500 Euros) in fines. The sentences of two of the convicted guest editors, rights defender Murat Çelikkan and writer and journalist Ayşe Düzkan, were not suspended and they were imprisoned for two and five months respectively. They were then released on bail with judicial controls for the remainder of their sentences.