The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme between the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has urged Turkey to release jailed human rights defenders in the country.

The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release these individuals and put an end to all forms of harassment against them, said a statement by the Observatory released on Aug 12.

On July, 5, Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained Eser from AI, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner. After interrogation at the anti-terror branch of the İstanbul Police Department, on July 17, the 12th day of their detention, the 10 human rights defenders, who are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, were referred to the İstanbul Courthouse. Six of the activists were subsequently arrested, while the court decided to release four of them on judicial probation. On July 21 İstanbul’s Adalar Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for the four human rights defenders, including Taştan and Özbekli, who were released by the court.

Below is the full text of the Observatory’s statement.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Nalan Erkem, lawyer with the Citizens’ Assembly [1], Ms. Ilknur Ustun, member of the Women’s Coalition, Mr. Veli Acu, member of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Ms. Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, Ms. Ozlem Dalkıran, member of the Citizens’ Assembly, Mr. Gunal Kursun, former Chairperson and lawyer with the Human Rights Agenda Association, Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner, security consultants as well as of the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Nejat Tastan, member of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights and Mr. Seyhmus Ozbekli, trainee lawyer and member of the Rights Initiative.

According to the information received, respectively on July 18, 2017, Mr. Veli Acu and Mr. Günal Kurşun, on July 31, 2017, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran and Ms. Nalan Erkem , and on August 1, 2017 Mr. Ali Gharawi and Mr. Peter Steudtner were transferred to Silivri prison in Istanbul, while Ms. İlknur Üstün remains detained in Ankara’s Sincan prison.

Messrs. Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun have been held in solitary confinement and a petition to share a cell was initially denied by Silivri Prison Administration for security reasons. However, at the time of publication of this Appeal, Mr. Günal Kurşun is no longer detained in solitary confinement.

Ms. Idil Eser, who does not have first degree family members, is only allowed to receive visits from her lawyers. Messrs. Ali Gharawi and Peter Steundtner, who were detained in solitary confinement for 3 days, are only allowed weekly one-hour visits from their lawyers.

In addition, on August 1, 2017, the Criminal Peace Judgeship in Istanbul refused to release Mr. Ali Gharavi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, and Ms. İdil Eser. A court will again review the remand into detention on August 18, 2017. Likewise, on August 9, 2017, the same court denied an objection to release of Ms. İlknur Üstün and Ms. Nalan Erkem and ordered the continuation of their pre-trial detention.

The Observatory recalls that the eight human rights defenders were arrested on July 5, 2017 in Büyükada, Istanbul and are facing charges for “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation without being a member” (see background information). They are remanded in detention pending trial.

The Observatory condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention and the subsequent deterioration of detention conditions of Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün as well as the judicial harassment targeting Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli, which only aims at silencing their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities, in the context of an ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders in Turkey [2].

The Observatory urges Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Veli Acu, Ms. Idil Eser, Ms. Özlem Dalkıran, Mr. Günal Kurşun, Mr. Ali Gharawi, Mr. Peter Steudtner, Ms. Nalan Erkem, Ms. İlknur Üstün and to put an end to all form of harassment against the latter as well as Mr. Nejat Taştan and Mr. Şeyhmus Özbekli.

Background information:

On July 5, 2017, Nalan Erkem, Özlem Dalkıran, İlknur Üstün, Idil Eser, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner were arrested and detained in different police stations across Büyükada, following a police raid during a digital security and information management workshop organised by the Citizens Assembly in Büyükada, Istanbul. The owner of the hotel where the workshop was being organised was also arrested and released on July 6, 2017.

Under Turkey’s state of emergency, they were not given access to their lawyers and family for at least 24 hours. On July 6, 2017.”