Amnesty International slams ‘show trial’ of human rights activists in Turkey

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Amnesty International issued a statement on their website on Wednesday harshly criticizing judicial proceedings involving 11 human rights activists in Turkey, calling it a “show trial.”

“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.”

Regarding the trials of the activists in Turkish courts, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said: “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 July 5, while Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. They are accused of membership of a terrorist organization.

The charges against the 11 include outlandish claims that standard human rights protection activities amount to assisting terrorist organizations. 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 organizations and some of the allegations against her refer to two Amnesty International documents which were issued before she even joined the organization,” said the AI statement.

As well as the hearing for the 11 that begins in Istanbul today, Kılıç will also appear at a hearing tomorrow in Izmir on a separate charge of membership in the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization.

The 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.

Amnesty International also underlined that the trials come as international pressure mounts on Turkey to release the human rights defenders. Worldwide protests marked 100 days of imprisonment for the Istanbul 10 and the birthday of Eser 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 the European Commission, the US State Department, UN officials and 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,” said Dalhuisen. “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.”

During a press conference in Hamburg on July 8 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt and signaled that the detention of the rights defenders could turn into imprisonment.

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