Posts Tagged ‘anti-terrorist laws’

Loujain Al-Hathloul Sentenced to over 5 Years Prison by Saudi Terror Court

December 29, 2020

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) posted on 28 the bad news that after 958 days in detention, Loujain AlHathloul was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison in court today by the Specialised Criminal Court (terrorism court).[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/26/loujain-al-hathlouls-trial-judge-transfers-her-case-to-even-worse-court/].

The sentence includes a suspension of 2 years and 10 months in addition to the time already served (since May 2018) which would see Loujain’s release in approximately two months. Loujain is also required to serve three years of probation during which time she could be arrested for any perceived illegal activity. She will also be placed on a 5 year travel ban.

After nearly three years in pre-trial detention and now 5 weeks of a rushed trial process in the Specialised Criminal Court, my sister Loujain was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison by the Specialised Criminal Court today. She was charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws. Loujain and my parents (who are her lawyers) were given little time to prepare so it is hard to understand how this trial process is a fair one. My sister is not a terrorist, she is an activist. To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi Kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy. My sister is the bravest person I know, and while we are devastated that she will have to spend even one more day in prison, our fight is far from over. We will not rest until Loujain is free,” said Lina AlHathloul.

The post includes a full timeline of the Specialised Criminal Court.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/28/saudi-rights-activist-loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-almost-six-years-in-jail

In reprisal for talking to diplomats Egypt arrests human rights defender Mohamed Basheern

November 18, 2020

On 16 November 2020, Amnesty International denounces the arbitrary arrest of Mohamed Basheer, the Administrative Manager at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), over bogus charges.

By arresting Mohamed Basheer, a member of staff at one of Egypt’s most prominent independent human rights organizations, the Egyptian authorities have yet again shown their intolerance of any scrutiny of their abysmal human rights record, sending a chilling message to the embattled human rights community in Egypt that they remain at risk.” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.

Amnesty International strongly condemns Basheer’s arrest and detention and believes he is being targeted solely for his organization’s legitimate human rights work, including for meeting with Western diplomats. Members of the international community, and especially the states whose representatives were part of that visit, must now show that they won’t accept this reprisal and urge the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Basheer, drop all charges against him, and end the persecution of Egyptian civil society and human rights defenders. ” 

EIPR is an independent human rights organization whose work covers a variety of political, civil, economic and social rights in Egypt. According to Gasser Abdel-Razek, the Executive Director of EIPR, plainclothes security forces raided Basheer’s home in the early hours of 15 November. They took him to a National Security Agency building, where they detained him for more than 12 hours and questioned him without a lawyer present about the visit on 3 November by Western ambassadors and diplomats to the EIPR’s office. He was then taken to the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), where a lawyer who attended his questioning by prosecutors there, said the questions had focused on EIPR’s publications and legal assistance to victims of human rights violations.

Mohamed Basheer was added to Case No. 855/2020 Supreme State Security, which involves investigations over unfounded terrorism-related charges against prominent detained human rights defenders and journalists, including Mahienour el-Masry, Mohamed el-Baqer, Solafa Magdy and Esraa Abdelfattah. Amnesty International has extensively documented how the SSSP use prolonged pre-trial detention over unfounded terrorism related charges to imprison opponents, critics and human rights defenders for months and years without trial. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/un-expresses-deep-concern-over-egypt-using-special-terror-courts-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/]

EIPR researcher Patrick George Zaki remains detained pending investigations by the SSSP over unfounded “terrorism”-related charges since his arrest in February 2020. 

See also: https://www.egyptindependent.com/egypt-rebuffs-frances-concerns-over-arrest-of-egyptian-activist-mohamed-bashir/

And on 18 November the authorities arrested another staff member of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Karim Ennarah, director of criminal justice initiatives Mada Masr reported [https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-rights-group-karim-ennarah.html]


Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-rights-group-karim-ennarah.html#ixzz6eHaFxm3G

and https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/11/egypt-arrest-human-rights-condemn-eu-un.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/egypt-authorities-arrest-staff-member-of-prominent-rights-group-in-reprisal-for-a-meeting-with-diplomats/

UN expresses deep concern over Egypt using special terror courts to silence human rights defenders

October 9, 2020

Cairo accused of ‘gravely endangering’ activists and infringing on their fundamental rights by imprisoning them during pandemic

Egypt has jailed more than 60,000 dissidents (AFP/File photo) By MEE staff

The Middle East Eye of 8 October 2020 reported that the UN Human Rights Council said in a statement on Friday that Cairo was treating free speech as terrorism.

“Terrorism charges and exceptional courts are being used to target legitimate human rights activities, and have a profound chilling effect on civil society as a whole,” according to 10 international specialists, including the UN rapporteurs on counter-terrorism and extrajudicial killings.

The use of terrorism courts to target and harass civil society is inconsistent with the rule of law.

The statement came days after Egypt executed 15 political prisoners who had been in detention since 2014.

The UN experts slammed the terrorism courts, saying that they undermine defendants’ basic legal rights, including the presumption of innocence. The special courts were created in 2013 after a Sisi-led coup overthrew the elected government of then-president Mohamed Morsi.

Defendants do not enjoy the right to confer safely and confidentially with their lawyer,” said the experts. 

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

“In addition, when the accused are put on trial from behind glass or inside metal cages, sometimes cut off from proceedings at the discretion of the presiding judge, they cannot effectively use their right to be present at their own trial.”

Egypt has embarked on a brutal crackdown on dissent since 2013, jailing more than 60,000 activists and imposing strict censorship measures on public discourse.

Sisi has consistently denied that there are political prisoners in Egypt, framing the crackdown as part of the fight against terrorism. After coming to power, he outlawed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and blacklisted it as a terror group.

On Thursday, the UN advocates cited the case of Bahey El-Din Hassan, director and co-founder of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, who was sentenced to 15 years in absentia in August over his criticism of the government. See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/27/egypt-15-year-term-for-human-rights-defender-bahey-el-din-hassan/

“It is an act of reprisal, seemingly punishing [him] for his cooperation with the United Nations,” the statement said. 

“The exercise of free speech and human rights work are being treated as terrorism, and it appears that the Terrorism Circuit Court is being used to retaliate against human rights activity protected by international law.”

—–

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-terrorism-courts-jail-activists-un-experts

Egypt: 15-year term for human rights defender Bahey El-Din Hassan

August 27, 2020

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

President of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, Bahey El-Din Hassan, 26 August 2020 [thenewkhalij/Twitter]

The charges levelled against Bahey Hassan, who has been described as the spiritual father of the human rights movement, are familiar. They have been issued, in one form or another, against Egypt’s 60,000 political prisoners, multiple times: spreading false news and insulting the judiciary. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies condemns the 15-year sentencing of its director, prominent human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan, and calls for an end to a state security campaign of intimidation and vengeance that has targeted Egyptian rights advocates.

Bahey Hassan left Egypt in 2014 after receiving death threats for his work. Two years later a travel ban was issued against him and his assets were frozen after he and his organisation were targeted by what Amnesty terms a “politically motivated investigation into the work of human rights organisations in case 173”, or the foreign funding case.[see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/09/18/egypt-court-freezes-assets-of-rights-defenders-and-ngos/]

In 2019 Hassan was sentenced to three years in prison, again in absentia, and fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,259) for allegedly insulting the judiciary.

Amr Magdi, Egypt’s researcher for Human Rights Watch, has drawn comparisons with Bahey Hassan’s treatment by the Sisi government to how his organisation was allowed to operate under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Understandbly there have been massive reactions on Twitter and other social media  against the 15-year sentence by Egypt ‘s ‘terror’ court.

 

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/08/egypt-human-rights-defender-bahey-eldin-hassan-handed-outrageous-15-year-prison-sentence/

Twitter ignites as Egypt ‘terror’ court hands 15-year term to human rights defender 

 

 

Egypt: Human rights defender Bahey eldin Hassan sentenced over a tweet

Turkey engages in abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad through secret agreements with other states according to UN letter

July 11, 2020

Turkish nationals who were abducted in Kosovo were kept for a time at the Turkish embassy premises.

On 9 July 9, 2020 the Nordic Monitor higlighted the shocking news that the Turkish government has signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with multiple states that were phrased ambiguously to allow for the expulsion or abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad, This is based on a joint UN letter on 5 May 2020.

Four UN rapporteurs/experts sent a joint letter to the Turkish government to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey.

Joint UN letter on systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey, see: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25209

The Government of Turkey, in coordination with other States, is reported to have forcibly transferred over 100 Turkish nationals to Turkey, of which 40 individuals have been subjected to enforced disappearance, mostly abducted off the streets or from their homes all over the world, and in multiple instances along with their children,” the letter said.

Nordic Monitor previously reported how the content of Turkey’s security agreements has changed in parallel to the transformation of national legislation and that the new documents contained ambiguous copy-paste phrases designed to suppress government opponents outside the country.

[The Turkish] Government has signed bilateral security co-operation agreements with multiple States allegedly containing broad and vague references to combatting terrorism and transnational crime. Sources claim that the agreements have been phrased ambiguously to allow for expulsion or abduction of anyone deemed to be a ‘security risk’ from third countries party to the agreements. There appears to be a clear link in the timing of the alleged operations – most, if not all, have been carried out within two years since the agreements entered into force. For instance, allegations are made that Turkey has signed secret agreements with several States, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Cambodia and Gabon, where several operations are reported to have taken place,” the letter stated….

Furthermore, rapporteurs, with reference to statements by Turkish officials, exposed the fact that over 100 alleged members of the Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by Turkish intelligence and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s systematic global manhunt.

“Turkish authorities have not only acknowledged direct responsibility in perpetrating or abetting abductions and illegal transfers, but have also vowed to run more covert operations in the future. On September 21, 2018, it is alleged that Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson stated during a press conference that the Government would continue its operations against the Hizmet Movement, similar to the one in Kosovo (March 29, 2018).”….

We note in this respect that deprivation of nationality for the sole purpose of facilitating expulsion or removal goes against international law norms and standards. Finally, we wish to highlight that violations of international human rights obligations resulting from these agreements engage Turkey’s responsibility under international law as well as the third countries parties to the agreements” the letter said….

https://www.nordicmonitor.com/2020/07/turkey-signed-secret-agreements-with-several-states-to-conduct-state-sponsored-extraterritorial-abductions-a-joint-un-letter-underlines/

That Turkey takes an aggressive stand on anything that smacks like terrorism was made clear again on 7 July 2020 when Turkey’s Foreign Ministry slammed recent remarks by Sweden’s foreign minister against Turkey’s military operation in northeastern Syria while meeting via videolink with members of the PYD/YPG/PKK terrorist organization.  

Essentially this meeting was not the first in which Ann Linde came into contact with members of the terrorist organization. She previously held talks with members of the terrorist organization and participated in activities organized by people associated with the terrorist organization,” the ministry said late Thursday in a statement.

It is a shame that so-called human rights defenders, who are becoming an instrument to the terrorist organization’s smear campaign, ignore the massacres, crimes and oppression…committed by these terrorists in Syria,” it stressed. [what the term “human rights defenders” here means is not clear] – https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-slams-swedish-fm-for-meeting-with-terror-group/1905510

India – back on Security Coiuncil – should clean up it human rights act

July 11, 2020

The admittedly Pakistan-based Geonet.tv gives a good summary of India’s disregard of concerns and objections in five letters by UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s new terrorism law and the Citizenship law.

In the five letters, UNHRC experts raised pertinent questions and pointed out violations by Indian authorities of the resolutions by UN Security Council, General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council…

On July 4, 2020, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) made public 14 cases of worst possible human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir after the Indian government failed to respond to their concerns within the stipulated 60 days.

Four UNHRC Rapporteurs on torture, extrajudicial executions, minority issues and freedom of religion under HRC charter and mandate had written to Indian government on May 4th, 2020, to respond back on the 14 cases and countless other cases involving grave abuse of human rights in Kashmir after its annexation on Aug 5th, 2019. The UN Rapporteurs in the May 4th letter lamented that Indian government had not responded to their earlier letters on Aug 16, 2019, and February 27, 2020, on the atrocities in Kashmir. The two earlier letters questioned the restrictions in Kashmir on rights of expression and assembly and dissent following Indian annexation of Kashmir.

In another letter on May 6th, 2020, eight Rapporteurs of UNHRC and one Vice Chair of a Working Group raised serious concern on the new anti-Terrorism law passed by Indian parliament just before Indian annexation of Kashmir in July/Aug 2019. UNHRC questioned the detention of any accused for an extended period of six months under the new anti-terror law

In another letter on February 28th, 2020, eight Rapporteurs of UNHRC and one Vice Chair of a Working Group questioned the Indian Citizenship Act of December 2019 which discriminates against Muslims and bars them to get Indian citizenship whereas people from different religious beliefs who entered Indian before Dec 2014 are eligible for it. The letter also heavily criticise excessive use of force to quell protests against this Act which resulted in death of over 50 and injuries to hundreds.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/

https://www.geo.tv/latest/297349-india-ignored-five-unhrc-letters-about-human-rights-violations

Aileen Bacalso’s account of the case of the Phillippines at the 44th session of the UN human Rights Council

July 8, 2020

Verafiles of 6 July 2020 carries the personal impression of human rights defender Mary Aileen D. Bacalso who attended the 44th seesion of the UN Human Rights Council where the Philippines was on the agenda.

Participation to the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council was mostly online. Inset photo on the left is UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Inset photo on the right is Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

During the last two and a half decades, ..I would never have believed that I should see the UN session hall almost empty as it was during the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which opened on 30th June 2020. Participation was online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Republic of the Philippines, one of the founding members of the United Nations, was yet again subjected to international scrutiny at the outset of the 44th session. The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights said that according to her office’s report the Philippine situation is “near impunity.” This from the first female Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, a woman who survived torture during the Pinochet dictatorship: she was referring to Philippine laws and policies directed at the drugs business and threats to national security, whose implementation has led to the killing of 248 human rights defenders – lawyers, journalists, trade unionists – between 2015 and 2019.

….Yet barely a week after the start of the UNHRC session, the bill has already been signed into law, on 3 July 2020. This draconian law, which introduces warrantless arrests among other curtailments of fundamental freedoms, is vehemently opposed by civil society….

At the 44th session, members of the European Union, part of the Western European and Other Groups, expressed profound concern about the direction of the Philippines, emphasizing the consequences for human rights of the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” and censuring its failure to implement recommendations made during the Philippines’ Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.

ASEAN on the other hand, and other members of the Asia and the Pacific Group, as well as some states in other regions such as Venezuela, Cuba and Belarus, expressed their unequivocal support for the Philippines, noting in particular its collaboration with the UNHRC, its robust NGO community and its efforts in reducing poverty. China conspicuously praised the Philippines’ progress in human rights……

Philippine non-government organizations (NGOs) condemned their country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court; the arrest and detention of Maria Ressa; the endless implementation of extrajudicial executions; the shutdown of the largest television network, ABS-CBN; continuing enforced disappearances and torture; the red-tagging of Sister Mary John Mananzan OSB and of a number of NGOs; the shoot-to-kill order against COVID-19 lockdown violators; and the then-imminent enactment of what is now the 2020 Anti-Terror Law.

Towing President Duterte’s line, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra responded that transparency and constructive cooperation characterized the country’s engagement with the UN, while the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, which Duterte tried to eliminate in 2018 by giving it a budget of PhP 1,000 ($20), asserted the vital importance of accountability. Commissioner Karen Dumpit said that the past failure to protect human rights had directly led to the current climate of impunity, and there was an obligation on the Government to pursue social justice and uphold human rights.

The Philippines prides itself as a founding member of the community of nations, though to become a model of human rights promotion and defense remains a distant hope.

Mary Aileen D. Bacalso is former secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. For her work against enforced disappearances, the Argentinian Government conferred on her the Emilio F. Mignone International Human Rights Prize in 2013, and she was awarded the 2019 Franco-German Ministerial Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/12/23/filippines-hrd-wins-emilio-mignone-award-for-work-against-enforced-disappearances/

https://verafiles.org/articles/shame-such-lonely-word

Istanbul court jails four human rights defenders on terror charges; seven acquitted

July 6, 2020

Having announced the trial last Friday [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/03/will-long-running-saga-of-trial-against-the-istanbul-10-end-on-friday-3-july/] I need to report also on the outcome although it was widley reported in the media.

A Turkish court on Friday convicted Taner Kilic, former chairman of Amnesty International, of membership in a terror organisation and sentenced him to over six years in prison. (AP)

Arab News on 4 July 2020 reported that human rights activists, including a former head of Amnesty International’s Turkish branch, have been jailed by an Istanbul court on terror-related charges in a decision condemned as an “outrage” by fellow campaigners. Amnesty International Turkey’s honorary chair Taner Kilic was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for “terror organization membership. Gunal Kursun from the Human Rights Agenda Association; Idil Eser, former executive director of Amnesty International Turkey; and Ozlem Dalkiran, former head of Amnesty International’s communications department, were each handed jail terms of one year and 13 months for “aiding a terror organization.”

The prosecution claimed that the hotel gathering was a “secret meeting to organize an uprising,” in order to trigger a “chaos environment” in the country – a claim categorically denied by the defendants.

Amnesty International has described the case as a travesty of justice. The defendants are now expected to appeal the verdict in the case dubbed the ‘Buyukada trial.”

Other human rights activists, including Nalan Erkem, lknur Ustun, Ali Gharavi, Peter Steudtner, Veli Acu, Nejat Tastan and Seyhmus Ozbekli, were acquitted.

Another disappointing court verdict against civil rights and civil society in Turkey. Not how we put our relations on a positive track. My thoughts are with imprisoned and families. Solidarity with democratic forces in Turkey!” tweeted Sergey Lagodinsky, chair of the EU-Turkey delegation at the European Parliament. Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, voiced concerns that Turkey is targeting and silencing human rights defenders.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, who observed the hearing, said the verdict is an outrage based on absurd allegations without any evidence and is supported by a pro-government media smear campaign.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1700036/middle-east

https://ahvalnews.com/buyukada-case/four-human-rights-activists-given-prison-sentences-buyukada-case

AI and HRW address criminal prosecution of Emir-Usein Kuku, Ethnic Crimean Tatar Human Rights Defender and His Five Co-defendants

June 22, 2020

On 19 June 2020 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International addressed a joint letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General

….We write to you to express our concern about the unfounded criminal prosecution and imprisonment of Emir-Usein Kuku, an ethnic Crimean Tatar human rights defender from Crimea, and his five co-defendants – Muslim Aliev, Vadim Siruk, Enver Bekirov, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov. They were convicted and sentenced on 12 November 2019 to prison terms ranging from seven to 19 years on groundless terror-related charges. On 22 June 2020, their appeal against the decision will be considered by the Military Court of Appeals.

All six men should be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed, and we call on you to take all necessary measures in your authority to ensure this happens. This case exemplifies the persecution of human rights defenders and other activists in Crimea.

Amnesty International considers Emir-Usein Kuku, who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, and all his co-defendants prisoners of conscience.

The terrorism-related charges against Emir-Usein Kuku and his co-defendants stem from accusations of membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization banned as “terrorist” in the Russian Federation (Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation), but not in Ukraine. All six have also been accused of conspiring to seize power by violent means (Article 278 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

…..

Emir-Usein Kuku is a member of the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group – a grassroots initiative created to monitor investigations into enforced disappearances in Crimea. As a human rights defender, Emir-Usein Kuku was continually harassed and threatened by the Russian authorities prior to the launch of the criminal proceedings against him, an indication that his prosecution is politically motivated and intended to stop his legitimate human rights activities.

When Emir-Usein Kuku joined the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group in October 2014, his activities soon brought him to the attention of the FSB, and according to him one of their officers unsuccessfully tried to recruit him as an informant on several occasions. The officer allegedly threatened Emir-Usein Kuku with reprisals, including criminal prosecution, for his refusal to cooperate.

On the morning of 20 April 2015, several FSB officers attacked Emir-Usein Kuku from behind while he was on his way to work, and severely beat him. They repeatedly kicked and punched him in the head, torso and kidney area. Then, in front of witnesses, they placed him in a vehicle and drove him to the local FSB headquarters where he was interrogated. He was later released without charge and they brought him back to his house.

On 11 February 2016, FSB officers arrested Emir-Usein Kuku at his house and detained him for questioning. On 12 February, Emir-Usein Kuku was charged under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“membership of a terrorist organization”) and placed on remand. Kuku has been in detention since that date – over four years and four months.

On the same day, the FSB detained Muslim Aliev, as well as Vadim Siruk and Enver Bekirov, who are accused of membership of the same group. On 18 April 2016, the FSB detained Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov as part of the investigation of the same case. All six deny any involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir and the charges against them.

…… Under international fair trial norms, civilians should not be tried before military courts. We call on you to take all necessary steps to address the human rights violations suffered by Emir- Usein Kuku and his co-defendants, Muslim Aliev, Enver Bekirov, Vadim Siruk, Arsen Dzhepparov and Refat Alimov, including harassment, their transfer from Crimea to the Russian Federation in violation of the international humanitarian law, and their ultimate unsound and wrongful conviction following an unfair trial. Emir-Usein Kuku and his five co-defendants must be immediately and unconditionally released, with their convictions and sentences quashed.

Marie Struthers, Director, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office, Amnesty International

Hugh Williamson, Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/06/22/joint-letter-human-rights-watch-and-amnesty-international-russias-prosecutor

Turkey: who will defend the human rights defenders?

February 16, 2020

Milena Buyum, Amnesty International, wrote on 14 February 2020 a moving piece on the detention and suffering of her fellow human rights defenders in Turkey.

Some moments in life are forever etched in our minds. Everyone recalls where they were when they heard their favourite rock star died, or how they felt around the birth of a child. For me, 6 June and 5 July 2017 are two dates that will forever be on my mind. They are the days when I learned that my friends and colleagues, human rights defenders, had been detained by Turkish police…On 6 June 2017, I was in Istanbul on a work visit, meeting with journalists and lawyers ahead of the start of the trial of two writers. It had almost been a year since the attempted and bloody military coup of July 2016. The Turkish government had responded with a sweeping crackdown on dissenters from all backgrounds, which was continuing to gather pace. I was with the editor of a small newspaper when I heard that my colleague Taner Kılıç had been detained. I will never forget the sinking feeling during those first moments. Trying to make sense of the nonsensical is always difficult. Knowing about the crackdown had not prepared me for how I’d feel when someone I knew was caught up in it.

…..

It was around 8pm on 5 July when I saw several missed calls from a colleague in Turkey. When I rang back, I learned that Amnesty’s Director in Turkey, Idil Eser, and nine others were in detention after being arrested  while attending a workshop on the island of Buyukada. My friend and sister Ozlem was among them. I recall vividly the ensuing hours, making frantic calls to whoever I could think of to try and find out where they were and what was going on. How could people be arrested for attending a human rights workshop? It made no sense.

…….

This week, I will be in Istanbul for the verdict in the case of Taner and the Buyukada 10. If found guilty of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’, they could face up to 15 years behind bars. At the last hearing in November, I was in the courtroom when the state prosecutor requested that Taner and five of the Buyukada 10 – Idil, Ozlem, Gunal, Nejat and Veli – be convicted, and recited those initial absurd allegations that had been destroyed under the weight of the evidence their defence had provided. This included the allegation that Taner had the secure messaging app ByLock on his phone. Since the coup attempt the authorities have used this allegation against tens of thousands of people to try to prove they were part of an armed terrorist organization. In Taner’s case it was proven to be baseless, including by the state’s own reports to the court. In fact, after 10 hearings in the case, all the accusations made against them have been shown, one by one, to be entirely baseless. How is it possible that the state is still asking for the convictions of our colleagues and friends? The situation facing them is not unique. Their situation is in many ways emblematic of the wave of repression that has gripped Turkey. On Tuesday, another landmark verdict is expected in the case of Osman Kavala and 15 others accused of conspiring to overthrow the government. Despite failing to produce a shred of evidence to support their claim, the prosecution has nevertheless sought life prison for them… [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/29/turkey-defies-european-court-on-kavala-and-undergoes-upr-review/]

I have been in that courtroom for this trial ever since it began. Each time, the absurdity of the prosecution and the complete lack of evidence of any crime having been committed – let alone under terrorism laws – struck everyone in attendance as reserved to the pages of a nightmarish novel. When I walk into the Istanbul courtroom next week, I know there is only one outcome that could deliver justice.  Taner, Ozlem, Idil, Nala. Seyhmus, Ilknur, Ali, Peter, Veli, Gunal and Nejat must all be acquitted. For defenders of human rights, for our friends, for human rights in Turkey, this is the only way just end to this long saga.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/02/who-will-defend-the-defenders/