Jagland talks to Turkish justice minister for the release of jailed rights defenders

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Thorbjørn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, held a phone conversation with Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and called for the release of 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International executives İdil Eser and Taner Kılıç, imprisoned on terrorism charges.

In a statement on Wednesday, Jagland underlined that the arguments which constitute the basis for the accusations against the human rights defenders are not sufficient to hold them in pretrial detention.

I called for their release. I told the Minister of Justice that pre-trial detention should be a measure of last resort. Deprivation of liberty is only permissible in strictly defined cases. A person charged with an offence must always be released pending trial unless the State can show that there are ‘relevant and sufficient’ reasons to justify the continued detention. In this regard, general and abstract arguments are not sufficient. The Turkish judiciary should apply the European Convention on Human Rights and the principles set in the case-law of the Strasbourg Court,” Jagland said.

The European Council will hold a meeting Oct. 19 and 20 in which it is expected to issue a statement on the human rights situation in Turkey.

Ten activists, including Eser, were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada and were put in pretrial detention by an İstanbul court on July 18 on charges of abetting a terrorist organization.

AI Turkey Chair Kılıç was also put in pretrial detention a month earlier on charges of alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities blame for a failed coup last year.

On Oct. 4 a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders.

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