Council of Europe head calls on Turkey’s minister for release of human rights activists
“I called for their release,” Jagland said in a written statement on Oct. 18, adding that pre-trial detention should be a last resort and Turkey’s judiciary should apply the European Convention on Human Rights.
“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,” he also stated, adding that “pre-trial detention should be a measure of last resort.”
The telephone conversation came after an Istanbul court accepted the prosecutor’s indictment against 11 human rights activists including Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser, Amnesty International Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmuz Özbekli, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Ali Garani, and Peter Steudtner on Oct. 17. The defendants are accused of “abetting armed terrorist organization” and “being a member of a terrorist organization.”
Describing the accusations against the activists as “general and abstract,” Jagland said “Turkish judiciary should apply the European Convention on Human Rights and the principles set in the case-law of the Strasbourg Court,” he said.
Ten of the human rights defenders were detained by police on July 5 while attending a digital security and information management workshop on the island of Büyükada off Istanbul.
On July 18, Eser, Dalkıran, Kurşun, Acu, Garani and Steudner were arrested while Üstün, Erkem, Taştan and Özbekli were released with a judicial control order. However, the latter four names were rearrested on July 21. Kılıç, who was arrested on June 9 on charges of having links to what prosecutors call the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), was also included in the prosecutor’s indictment finalized on Oct. 8.
The first hearing of the trial will be held in Istanbul Oct. 25.
Responding to criticism that the prosecutor’s indictment includes accusations that are “not based on solid evidence,” Justice Minister Gül referred to another dropped investigation into a British citizen
“There was an investigation about a British citizen, Amnesty International’s Turkey correspondent. It was decided not to pursue the investigation because the accusations were abstract and general,” Gül told state-run Anadolu Agency on Oct. 19.
“In taking that decision, we used the non-defamation principle that we introduced by State of Emergency decree. People claim that under the state of emergency the law has been suspended and freedom has been restrained. But here we have introduced an important reform on the protection of the rights and liberties of our citizens,” he added.