Turkey: Verdict expected in trial of high-profile human rights activists facing up to 15 years in jail
A verdict is expected tomorrow in the cases of 11 human rights defenders, including two former Amnesty Turkey leaders, who have spent nearly three years fighting trumped-up charges and could face up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty.
Ahead of the hearing in Istanbul, Amnesty International said only the acquittal of all 11 could deliver justice for the activists who face baseless terrorism charges.
Eleven human rights defenders, including two former Amnesty Turkey leaders, could face up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty
“From the start, this has been a politically motivated trial, just like so many others against other human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists,” said Idil Eser, former Amnesty Turkey Director and one of the human rights defenders on trial.
“These prosecutions aim to silence those in the dock and send a message to the rest of society: fight for human rights or speak the truth at your peril. We’ll be hoping for the best, but ready for the worst.”
Over the course of the past 11 hearings, the ‘terrorism’ allegations made against all 11 defendants have been repeatedly and categorically disproven, including by the state’s own evidence. The prosecution’s attempt to present legitimate human rights activities as unlawful acts has comprehensively failed.
After more than 14 months in prison, former Amnesty Turkey Chair and now Honorary Chair Taner Kılıç was released on bail in August 2018. Eight of the others spent almost four months each behind bars before they were released in October 2017. But thousands of others caught up in Turkey’s deep and far-reaching crackdown on dissent remain in jail.
These prosecutions aim to silence those in the dock and send a message to the rest of society: fight for human rights or speak the truth at your peril
At the tenth hearing in November 2019, the prosecutor requested acquittal for five of the 11, and convictions for the remaining six.
“This verdict matters, not just to these 11 women and men and their families but to everyone who values human rights, in Turkey and beyond. No matter where you live, no matter which government rules you, you may need to have your rights defended one day,” said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s newly-appointed Europe Director.
Final Büyükada hearing to start in an hour and a half. All eyes of the Amnesty movement on the İstanbul Çağlayan courthouse today. We demand the acquittal of all 11 human rights defenders #FreeRightsDefenders #HakSavunucularıİçinAdalet @MilenaBuyum @StefSimanowitz pic.twitter.com/O58uPpqoRl— Andrew Gardner (@andrewegardner) July 3, 2020
Büyükada due to start now, but very few observers allowed in. Reason COVID19. Only one lawyer per defendant. diplomatic representatives from Germany, Sweden Switzerland observing. pic.twitter.com/C1o4eZWJ7E— Andrew Gardner (@andrewegardner) July 3, 2020
No matter where you live, no matter which government rules you, you may need to have your rights defended one day
“Tomorrow, the eyes of the world will be on the courtroom in Istanbul. Any verdict other that acquittal for the 11 would send a shiver down the spines of those who believe in peaceful civil society activism. But whatever happens with our friends and colleagues in the Büyükada case, we will continue to fight for justice for all in Turkey.”
At the hearing in November 2019, the state prosecutor presented his final opinion requesting convictions against Taner Kılıç for “membership of a terrorist organization”, Idil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu and Nejat Taştan for “knowingly and willingly assisting a terrorist organization”. He requested that the court acquit Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner.
At the last hearing in February, seven of the human rights defenders and their lawyers presented their final defence statements. At the hearing on 3 July the four remaining human rights defenders and their lawyers will present their final statements before a verdict is announced.
For more information about the case visit https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/01/turkey-istanbul-human-rights-activists-justice/
For an analysis of the case against Taner Kılıç visit: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur44/7331/2017/en/
Over the past three years more than 2 million people spoke out to call for justice for the 11. Well-known figures who signed open letters (in 2017) include: Edward Snowden, Catherine Deneuve, Ai Weiwei, Angélique Kidjo, Anish Kapoor, Peter Gabriel, Zoë Kravitz, Nazanin Boniadi, Don Cheadle, Marisa Tomei, Adam McKay, Paul Haggis, Joshua Malina, Fisher Stevens, Claire Danes, Ben Stiller, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Farrell, Eva Orner, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Roth, Kathy Najimy, Mark Ruffalo, Zach Galifianakis, Bruce Cohen, Shira Piven, Mike White, Tim Kring, James McAvoy, Francois Morel, Elif Shafak, Bianca Jagger, Juliet Stevenson, Juliette Binoche, Jane Birkin, Isabelle Huppert and Tanita Tikaram.