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Rights defenders’ trial: defence based on Prime-Minister’s words

The trial of the eleven defendants, eight of whom are in detention pending trail, of representatives of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Agenda Association and the Equal Rights Watch Association has started today at the Istanbul Judicial Complex in Çağlayan. A large number of foreign press members are also monitoring the trial.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 25 Ekim 2017 Çarşamba, 17:06

The eleven defendants, who were arrested while holding a meeting on Büyükada on 5 July 2017, including representatives of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Agenda Association and the Equal Rights Watch Association, German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swiss citizen Ali Ghravi, have now gone on trial. Erol Önderoğlu of RSF, Emma Sinclair-Webb of HRW, Feray Salman of Human Rights Joint Platform, Hüsnü Öndül, Rakel Dink and Gülten Kaya of the Human Rights Association, AKP MP Mustafa Yeneroğlu, ambassadors and Amnesty International are monitoring the hearing to be held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 35. With the courtroom filled to capacity, many potential spectators were left outside the courtroom. Following negotiations conducted with the court, a further fifteen people were permitted to observe the hearing.
Amnesty International’s Turkey Branch Executive Board Director, Taner Kılıç, and İlknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition are participating at the hearing by video link from Ankara Sincan Prison. Identity checks are being carried out at the trial which commenced at 11.40.
The trial, which commenced with identity checks at 11.40 is continuing with the reading of the indictment.
Inquiry was made by the court if the defendants who did not speak Turkish could read the indictment. They said they were reading the translation. The defendants’ attorneys, in turn, entered into the records that the translation was done by the attorneys and the court did not provide a translation.
Attorneys made an application with regard to Amnesty International’s Turkey Branch Chair Taner Kılıç’s case and sought the severance of the case. The attorneys premised this application on the existence of a case of the same nature in Izmir. Pointing to double jeopardy, they sought the separation of the case on fair trial grounds.
Kılıç’s attorney said, “There is a statement of case of mine dated 11 October but the court has not deliberated on it. It is nonsense for Taner Kılıç to be in this trial in our view. I seek a reply to the statement of case. We sought the joinder of the case in Izmir with this one. This case must be severed here before the merits are addressed. It cannot be heard here. For a person who has a hearing in another court the next day to make statement and be adjudged here will affect the fairness of the trial. This situation is contrary to a fair trial and the law. Our application is for the court to perceive of this matter and return Taner Kılıç’s indictment. We apply for Taner Kılıç’s case to be severed and dismissed.”
It was ascertained that due to a problem in the video link system Taner Kılıç had not heard the discussion concerning him. Kılıç’s attorney called on the hearing to be recorded. To this request, the presiding judge in turn retorted, “Are hearings held with recordings made in all civilised countries in the world, learned madam?”

Özlem Dalkıran, who is being held in pretrial detention, started her defence: “I have been deprived of my liberty for a period of more than three months. I don’t know why. We congregated to learn how we could cope with stress. We have been under stress for a period in excess of 100 days. It is alleged that the meeting was held clandestinely without announcement. This meeting is not clandestine. It is closed. The decision for a workshop was taken at Human Rights Joint Platform’s April meeting. With all the meaning that it is wished to read into Büyükada and July, the meeting was actually going to be in June. It was postponed due to Ramadan. Izmir was mooted for the meeting, too. One cannot help but wonder. If we had held this meeting in May in Izmir, would we be here.? Can one meet clandestinely in a hotel? Hotel guests are reported to the provincial governate. Can two translators be booked for a clandestine meeting? Can transport be laid on for staff? If the participants at the meeting are secret, are participants going to send photographs? Is attendance going to be made at BİANET’s hundred-person dinner on Büyükada? It is said that what we discussed inside, methods for protecting data and coping with stress, are not areas of concern for human rights defenders.
Workers in the field of rights and freedoms share sensitive information about victims of breaches. This information is sensitive and this is like the sensitivity between doctor-patient or lawyer-client. Such information is important. Such reports and information are now in a digital environment. Those who do not care for our work hack our phones and computers. So, data security is important. Last week, Prime-Minister Binalı Yıldırım spoke of the threat posed to the economy at the data security conference. Cyber-attacks negatively affect the economy. In our situation, conversely, this affects people’s lives. It is risky. This risk cannot be taken. We had to learn about this to protect ourselves, our entities and the victims on whose behalf we are fighting, and this workshop was held. In the indictment, everywhere my name is mentioned it is stated that I was the meeting’s organiser. It is not a crime to organise this meeting. One of the charges against me is my conversation with İştar Gözaydın. I have been friends with here since the 90’s. She was detained and was freed. My call was probably to congratulate her on getting out. You certainly phone your friends who are released. İştar Gözaydın and I are not connected to FETO/PDY.

One of the charges against me is over messages in the Whatsapp group. It was stated that meeting dates would be with changes to their days due to the Figen Yüksekdağ hearing. There is a further search for intent in my message, “Close your phones and enjoy the ferry trip” that I also posted to the group. This message has also been construed in the media to be “so as to avoid technical monitoring.” In fact, the phones were only closed at sea. It is known in any case that when the police got to the hotel everyone’s phone was open. The meeting messages for the most part consisted of messages like, “Are you going to the pool?” “Let’s go into the sea” and “Where are we dining?” Everyone reports their whereabouts.

Because I had not seen the full form of the Istanbul ‘No’ Assemblies’ Word text, just a cross section was taken. I did not go to this 400-person meeting. I could have gone, but did not. So, I did not speak there, either. The impression is being created that this document was the subject of our workshop. This is very dangerous. We cannot be responsible for an email that comes to us. We all watched together as Kadir Gürsel explained hopelessly at the Cumhuriyet trial how he had nothing to do with messages sent to him. How can we be held responsible for incoming messages? If the prosecutor says this document constitutes a crime and that I took part, he must prove this. But there is neither any allegation in the indictment that I participated at that meeting nor anything else. It just sits there as a document. We spoke neither of Nuriye and Semih, nor the Justice March nor the “No” Assemblies at the meeting on Büyükada.
There are money transfers in the Financial Crimes Investigation Board report. I sent money to the Roboski Association in 2014. The association was closed under a decree with the force of law three years later. It is said that I sent money to a unit accused of terrorism. When I sent the money, there was no trial. The person I sent the money to was in any case at liberty, too. An association to which I also made a donation in January was later closed under a decree with the force of law. Such interpretations will make citizens reluctant to make personal donations in a country in which three million refugees live and are dangerous. If the Rojava Association to which I made a donation was closed under a decree with the force of law three years later, what can I do about it? The police asked about my phone passwords on the fourth or fifth day. I do not have a phone password but there is a PIN code. And I could not remember that code. The prosecutor said in the indictment that not remembering the code was an aberration from normal life. True. But this was not normal life. We were first taken to the islands police station and then split up among other police stations. We were kept in stifling, very bad conditions. Nobody had news of our whereabouts for thirty hours. That is all I have to say about the indictment. None of the allegations speaks of me doing anything unlawful. No connection can be made to terrorism. I have defended the truth without drawing distinction. I have fought against the bearing of arms. I have never consented to this as a rights defender of thirty years’ standing. I seek my acquittal.”

Dalkıran, stating in her defence that the charges against her were unfounded, said, “Years ago I arranged a conference together with Swiss national Ali Ghravi. Abdullah Gül made the opening and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made the closure. We were all members of associations that were components of the human rights joint platform.”
The account given in the indictment drafted by Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecution Terrorism and Organised Crime Bureau Prosecutor, Can Tuncay, is that the Büyükada meeting was organised by Amnesty International Turkey Representative Taner Kılıç but, with his having been arrested in Izmir charged with being a Bylock user, the other suspects for their part convened on Büyükada and started the meeting.


It is alleged in the indictment that the suspects were endeavouring to turn the Justice March that CHP General Chair Kemal Κılıçdaroğlu launched from Ankara to Istanbul into chaos and to spread the resulting disarray into other provinces and sub-provinces. In the indictment, imprisonment of between five and fifteen years is sought, for “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” against Amnesty International Turkey Representative Taner Kılıç, and for “aiding an armed terrorist organisation” against the other suspects.
The suspects in the indictment are German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner and Swiss citizen Ali Ghravi, Nalan Erkem of the Citizens’ Assembly, İlknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition, Amnesty International Turkey Representative Taner Kılıç, Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser, Amnesty International Turkey Executive Board Member Veli Acu, Günal Kurşun of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Nejat Taştan of the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran of the Citizens’ Assembly and former Rights Initiative
activist Şeynus Özbekli.

Cumhuriyet İMECESİ

Cumhuriyet Arşivi Gazete Kupürlerinde:

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abdullah Gül, Mustafa Yeneroğlu