Ongoing detention of human rights defenders in Turkey

Who we wrote to

The president of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about the rising number of lawyers, judges and prosecutors being arrested and detained for alleged links to the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO) without being appropriately or promptly charged or released.

Lawyer Hakim Peker, member of the Libertarian Lawyers Platform, was taken into custody again on 14 December 2017, on charges relating to “meeting his clients and his practices of law”. We understand he was taken to Istanbul Security Directorate and denied access to a lawyer for 24 hours.

Lawyer Gurkan Istekli, also a member of the Libertarian Lawyers Platform, was detained on 14 December 2017 on the same charges as Mr Peker.

We understand he was also denied access to legal representation for 24 hours. It’s also been alleged that on the same day his house was raided and searched by Anti-Terror Bureau police and Special Police Forces.

17 women lawyers were arrested on 11 January 2018 by Istanbul Prosecutorial Office, on alleged charges of being linked to the Gulen movement. After spending two days in police custody, lawyer Ozge Elif Hendekci and her three-month old daughter were placed in pre-trial detention on 29 December 2017, on charges of being linked to the FETO organisation.

Mehmet Kaya, former secretary general of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, was detained on 8 February 2018. Lawyers Ersin Cosman and Melih Dikayak were detained on alleged charges related to downloading the Bylock app and being part of a terrorist organisation.

On 7 December 2017, Mr Cosman was sentenced to six years and three months’ imprisonment. On 11 December 2017 Mr Dikayak was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment.

It appears that since the failed coup attempt, around 71 lawyers have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for allegedly using Bylock. It seems the use of the Bylock app is associated with being a member of a terrorist organisation.

We find these allegations deeply disturbing given that this amounts to insufficient evidence.

What we asked for

We urged the relevant authorities to:

  • immediately release Didem Baydar, Sukriye Erden, Aysegul Cagatay, Ebru Timtik, Aytac Unsal, Zehra Ozedemir, Yagmus Ereren, Engin Gokoglu, Suleyman Gokten, Aycan Cicek, Naciye Demir, Behic Asci, Barkin Timtik, Ozgur Yilmaz, Yaprak Turkman and Buket Yilmaz
  • allow these and other lawyers and human rights defenders to carry out their professional activities without fear of intimidation, harassment or detention
  • release Ozge Elif Hendekci and her daughter from pre-trial detention and review the procedures and resources available for women and children in detention
  • review the convictions and length of sentences of Ersin Cosman and Melih Dikayak
  • promptly release lawyers Hakim Peter and Gurkan Istekli
  • promptly release Mehmet Kaya, former secretary general of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors
  • promptly release Taner Kilic, chair of the board of Amnesty International Turkey
  • undertake due process and conduct a fair trial for the 17 women lawyers arrested on 11 January 2018 and review their conviction
  • ensure that principles of due process are respected in any proceedings brought against the individuals named

Timeline

6 June 2017 – Taner Kilic, chair of the board of Amensty International Turkey, was arrested along with 22 other attorneys

17 August 2017 – Ozge Elif Hendekci was taken into custody at Istanbul Police HQ while she was eight months pregnant

20 September 2017 – it was reported that a group of lawyers were arrested and accused of links to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party

October 2017 – Hakim Peker was released after eight months of pre-trial detention

26 October 2017 – Mr Kilic was released

14 November 2017 – Gurkan Istekli was arrested and held in pre-trial detention for 14 days

7 December 2017 – Ersin Cosman was sentenced to six years and three months’ imprisonment

11 December 2017 – Melih Dikayak was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment

14 December 2017 – Mr Peker was taken into custody again and Mr Istekli was detained on the same charges as Mr Peker

20 December 2017 – lawyer Yaprak Turkman was arrested

22 December 2017 – intern lawyer Buket Yilmaz was arrested

29 December 2017 – Hendekci and her three-month old daughter were placed in pre-trial detention

11 January 2018 – 17 women lawyers were arrested by Istanbul Prosecutorial Office

31 January 2018 – Mr Kilic was re-arrested

8 February 2018 – Mehmet Kaya was detained