Trumped up terror charges against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director and chair, do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny, said Amnesty International as court proceedings begin in Istanbul and Izmir. The charges against them – carrying jail terms of up to 15 years and set out in two indictments to be heard in two separate trials – are entirely baseless.
“From the moment of their detentions, it has been clear that these are politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing critical voices within Turkey. Without substance or foundation the Turkish authorities have tried and failed to build a case against İdil, Taner and the other nine human rights activists. It took the prosecutor more than three months to come up with nothing. It should not take the judge more than half an hour to dismiss the case against them. Ten activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested on 5 July, whilst Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. They are accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
The charges against the 11 include outlandish claims that standard human rights protection activities amount to assisting terrorist organisations. These include appealing to stop the sale of tear gas, making a grant application, and campaigning for the release of hunger-striking teachers. According to the indictment, İdil Eser is linked to three unrelated and opposing terrorist organisations. Some of the allegations against her refer to two Amnesty International documents which were issued before she even joined the organisation.
The prosecution unsurprisingly offers no evidence to support their allegations that the Büyükada workshop, where the arrests took place, was a “secret meeting to organise a Gezi-type uprising” or that any of the defendants were engaged in wrongdoing. Amnesty International has made a detailed analysis of the indictment, addressing each of the allegations made against the 11 defendants.
As well as the hearing against the 11 which begins in Istanbul today, Taner Kılıç will also appear at a hearing tomorrow in Izmir on a separate charge of “membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation”. This charge is based on the allegation that he downloaded and used the ByLock messaging application, claimed to have been used by the Gülen movement to communicate. However, two independent forensic analyses of Taner’s phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of Bylock ever having been on his phone.
The trials come as international pressure mounts on Turkey to release the human rights defenders. Worldwide protests marked 100 days imprisonment for the Istanbul 10 and last week, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and the Chair of the Human Rights Committee in the European Parliament, Pier Antonio Panzeri, all called for their release. They join a long list of governments, institutions and political figures that have demanded their release including European Commission, the US State Department, UN officials, Angela Merkel and the German government as well as the Austrian, Irish and Belgian governments.
“These two trials will be an acid test for the Turkish justice system and will demonstrate whether standing up for human rights has now become a crime in Turkey. If justıce can be subverted by a dystopian fiction woven from absurd and baseless allegations, it will be a dark day for Turkey’s justice system and a grim omen for the future of human rights in the country. With the eyes of the world on these courtrooms in Istanbul and Izmir the time has come for the long overdue unconditional release of our colleagues,” said Colm O’Gorman.