Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC), Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, welcomed the release of eight human rights activists by a Turkish court but criticized another decision to continue the pre-trial detention of Amnesty International (AI) Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç.
An İstanbul court on Wednesday ruled to release eight human rights activists, including AI’s Turkey Director İdil Eser, who had been in pretrial detention since July 5 over alleged terror links.
A day after the release of the activists, a court in Izmir ruled for the continuation of the pre-trial detention of AI’s Kılıç, combining his case with the activists’ Büyükada case.
“While we welcome the release of 8 human rights activists, including the Director of Amnesty International (AI) Turkey, pending trial, we are dismayed by yesterday’s court decision to continue AI Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç’s pre-trial detention, which, at the least, is disappointing, if not barely understandable,” said Mikko and Evans.
“We are hopeful, and reiterate our call to the judicial authorities for these terror charges to be dropped and once for all. We expect all authorities to fully comply with the letter and spirit of the European convention for human rights to which Turkey is party. A lively democracy implies a safe and secure environment for civil society organisations’ operations,” the PACE rapporteurs added and continued:
“The decision to keep Taner Kılıç in detention is unfortunately another chilling signal sent to human rights defenders and many others, who strive only to exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly.”
The co-rapporteurs called on the authorities “to take more meaningful steps towards better legislation and a safer environment, and to end the harassment of NGO activists and persons with opinions and positions that diverge from those of the authorities.”
“The Council of Europe stands ready to assist.”
Reacting to the decision of the İzmir court, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, on Thursday said: “Over the last 24 hours we have seen the twin hands of Turkey’s fickle justice system at play. While one grants liberty, the other, confronted with no less baseless charges, takes it away.”
“The release of the Istanbul 10 late last night restored some faith in Turkey’s justice system. Today, that faith has been washed away. Turkish authorities have repeatedly and publicly presumed Taner Kılıç’s guilt, on the basis of innuendo and unsupported allegations,” added Shetty.
“We will continue undaunted to campaign for the release of our chair and the dropping of the charges against all human rights defenders in Turkey.”