Seven people who were imprisoned in Turkey on trumped-up charges have been named prisoners of conscience (POCs) by Amnesty International today.
The decision comes two months after the activists, including prominent philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala, were convicted at the end of a sham retrial when a court of appeal overturned their previous acquittals. It also comes a week after the court published its ‘reasoned judgment’ in which it provided no grounds for its majority verdict.
“Naming these seven people as prisoners of conscience is a recognition of the chronicle of injustice they have suffered beginning with arbitrary detention and politically-motivated prosecutions and ending in a show trial and convictions,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The injustice that these seven have been subjected to is emblematic of that suffered by so many in Turkey’s draconian crackdown on human rights.”
On 25 April, Osman Kavala was sentenced to life in prison for ‘attempting to overthrow the government’. The prosecuting authorities alleged that he played a leadership role in the largely peaceful 2013 Gezi Park mass protests but failed to provide any evidence to substantiate their claims. He has been imprisoned since November 2017.
His seven co-defendants, architect Mücella Yapıcı, city planner Tayfun Kahraman, lawyer Can Atalay, documentary film-maker Mine Özerden, film producer Çiğdem Mater, higher education director Hakan Altınay and university founder Yiğit Ekmekçi, were also convicted for assisting Osman Kavala. They were each sentenced to 18 years.
Six of them were immediately put in prison and an arrest warrant was issued for the seventh defendant Yiğit Ekmekçi.
The POC announcement was made following visits to the prisoners by a high-level delegation led by Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Kerem Dikmen, who is also a lawyer.
“The shocking injustice meted out to the Gezi Park defendants exposes again how Turkey’s judicial system has become a repressive tool to silence dissent,” said Agnès Callamard.
“Each day they spend behind bars is an affront to the concept of justice and human rights, principles that the Turkish state has committed itself to upholding but is repeatedly and relentlessly violating. The Gezi Park defendants are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”