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Turkish court accepts indictment seeking 15 years for human rights defenders

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The İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment drafted by the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office seeking up to 15 years each for 11 people including foreign human rights defenders for allegedly “being a member of an armed terrorist organization and aiding it,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the court also scheduled the first hearing in the trial for Oct. 25.

On July 5 Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained İdil Eser from Amnesty International, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli and Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association, two foreign trainers, Swedish national Ali Garawi and German citizen Peter Steudtner, and the hotel owner. Eight of the 11 people have been under pretrial detention.

Eleven people were accused of membership in and aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and faith-based Gülen movement.

According to Turkish media, Amnesty International’s Turkey section chair Taner Kılıç, who was detained on June 6 in a separate operation in İzmir, was also accused in the same indictment of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed coup.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 8 accused the detained human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to the July coup attempt.

One of Turkey’s staunchly pro-government dailies, Star, claimed on July 11  that the CIA and MI6 were behind the meeting at the hotel on Büyükada.

Another pro-government newspaper, Yeni Şafak, on July 23 said the rights activists had ties to the German BND intelligence service.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15 through government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency.

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