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Büyükada eight free after 113 days

At the first hearing of the trial into the meeting held on Bükükada on 5 July 2017, the release of the eight defendants in detention pending trial was ordered.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 26 Ekim 2017 Perşembe, 17:16

The hearing heard at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 35 commenced at 11 am and ended at around 23.40 hours. The first hearing saw the completion of the defences by all the detained defendants. After the prosecutor sought the release of seven defendants apart from Veli Acu, the defendants’ attorneys made their defences.
The court then took a brief recess and ordered the release of the defendants who had been in detention pending trial: German citizen Peter Frank Steudtner, Swiss citizen Ali Gharvi, Günal Kurşun of the Human Rights Agenda Association, Amnesty International Turkey Director İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran of the Citizens’ Assembly, Nalan Erkem of the Citizens’ Assembly, İlknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition and United Nations World Food Programme Project Expert Veli Acu.
With the bench imposing a ban on leaving the country on defendants Özlem Dalkıran and Veli Acu, the conditional release requirement of signing at a police station was lifted in the case of the defendants on release pending trial Şeyhmus Özbekli and Nejat Taştan and this was converted into release subject to a ban on leaving the country. The bench also ruled that the case in Izmir of Taner Kılıç, one of Amnesty International Turkey Branch’s administrators, who is in detention pending trial at Izmir Serious Crime Court No 16 for FETO/PDY membership, be joined to this case. The bench adjourned the hearing until 22 November, ordering that the manager of the hotel on Büyükada that was the venue of the meeting featuring in the proceedings be summoned as a witness.
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 participated at the hearing by video link from Ankara Sincan Prison. Identity checks were carried out at the trial which commenced at 11.40.
The trial, which commenced with identity checks at 11.40 is continued 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.”
Peter Steudtner commenced his defence through an interpreter. Steudtner said, “I thank the court for having provided an opportunity for a defence in person today. I wish to state that I have complied in full with the judicial process, as I have done for 112 days. I have been working for more than twenty years as a professional facilitator and trainer. I worked in Mozambique and South Africa in the first years. In Mozambique, I worked for child soldiers to return to their families. I have always worked for peace and non-violence. Nowadays, I do consultancy and documentary film work in the area of stress and trauma management and digital security. I have not worked with bodies in Turkey before. All the bodies I have worked with operate within the legal framework in their countries in opposition to violence. I have always believed in non-violence and have thus supported no body that has connections with violence and terrorism. As military service is compulsory in German, I worked in a hospital as a social service functionary instead of military service.
My reason for taking part in this event was that we do not run workshops of this kind as a single person because being the only person creates stress. Ali asked the group of trainers we work with if there was an expert in stress and trauma matters who was also available. I agreed to take part because I have worked with Ali for a long time and am an expert in the field. As I always do, I booked a plane and made my entry in the system in which German citizens travelling outside Germany register with embassies in case of natural disasters.
These reports in the media violated my rights. We objected to these reports and the judicial system did not protect my rights. While I was being arrested, the police used Turkish words that I didn’t understand. I wasn’t even told until midnight that I had the right of silence. My statement was taken at Büyükada police station in a threatening manner without any rule or formality. Our communications were cut off in an inhuman manner following our detention and I stayed in the cell for three days.
This penalty strikes me as being very severe because my family has no possibility of coming here. I have two small children. I am able to speak to them for ten minutes every two weeks. The charges of supporting terrorism against me are unfounded. I do not understand how they have tied me in. According to the indictment, the two interpreter witnesses said that I had worked in Pakistan. I have never been to Pakistan in my life. We and the participants did not speak at about ByLock during the training. The interpreters used the word “ByLock” for the first time. The second interpreter interpreted by adding his own content. He got into arguments himself with the participants without interpreting for us.
The same interpreter occasionally approached me and asked for tools to access blocked sites. The police have adduced no evidence that no interference has been made to my digital data. I do not know if the files are as I left them.
The meeting is alleged to have been secret. The meeting was not secret. The door to the salon was open. The police shouted my name when they raided the hotel and I still do not know why. Translation into neither English nor German has been made.” Peter Steudtner was asked if he wanted to make recourse to effective contrition provisions in view of the charges raised. Steudtner said in turn that he did not accept because he had committed no crime.
İlknur Üstün: “I work in the area of social sexual equality. I have worked in all areas of life from giving training to police commanders to contributing towards the twelve-year development plan. I have done a lot of reporting into children’s and women’s problems all over Turkey. My work has encapsulated information about women who have undergone abuse and suffered violence. For years I have listened to the stories of women and children who have suffered rape, abuse and violence. The cumulative stress from this is quite considerable. If working for women’s and children’s rights is a crime then I knowingly committed it. The achievements made as a result of the work we have conducted have been a source of pride in the world for Turkey. The project supported by the British embassy that is adduced as evidence against me is one of these and was the subject of public knowledge and scrutiny. One allegation concerns the invitation to the meeting not having been made on social media. Fifteen days before this event, I attended a meeting billed as “Protecting Victims” at the Ministry of Justice’s invitation and I didn’t post this invitation on social media, either. I stand by all my women’s rights and human rights work that I have done until now. I wanted to get a breath of fresh air on the island but before I knew what had happened I was arrested. I am now in detention.”
İdil Eser: “I reject all the charges. I do not understand how going to get training in stress management is made out to be connected to a terrorist organisation. All the allegations in the indictment are the lawful work of Amnesty International. The charges have to do with the work I do in the human rights field. Minister of Religious Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has also stated that he greatly appreciates Amnesty International’s work. I took part at the meeting held by the Human Rights Joint Platform in Antalya because it was an annual assessment event. The matter of stress management came up there. While working with earthquake victims in Van, the advice of the experts there was that it was necessary to obtain support for trauma management. There is somebody in the file called Ramazan who is alleged to be a ByLock user. I thought for a long time about who this could be and when I called their home the estate agent I deal with answered. Amnesty International waged a campaign against President Tayyip Erdoğan’s imprisonment for reading a poem. I do not wish to make recourse to effective contrition because I have done nothing to feel contrition about. I have done nothing apart from defend human rights.”
One of the judges, pointing to the rights defenders’ stress on human rights, said in outrage, “It is said that there was no food apart from prison fare. I have been kept going since this morning by the bun I had for breakfast. If you speak of human rights, I am also human.”
Ali Ghravi: “I thank you for this hearing because I have felt myself to be in the dark for 120 days. I would have wished to have appeared before you in more formal attire but it is thanks to Silivri Prison conditions that I have come like this. I do not accept any of the accusations levelled against me. My first work was for refugees seeking their families in the Balkans. I work for bodies that work for torture victims, war victims and refugees.
On my way here, I wanted us all together to be freed from stress and a bit relieved following the meeting, but the complete opposite happened. The crime component in the indictment is the language map of the Middle East. This is the Middle East’s linguistic language map. Because I was talking about Iran, I didn’t include Turkey. I included languages like Arabic and Farsi. As to the map used as evidence, it has been altered. I did not recognise the map when I saw it in the indictment. I do not even know what the terrorist organisations mentioned in the indictment are. I have encountered a situation that violates all my human rights for 115 days. I have devoted my life to opposing violence. My rights were not read to me on being arrested. I have a heart complaint. They took me to the doctor twice. Nobody said anything. There was nobody who spoke English. I did not understand what was happening.
It is clear that they played with my phone on Büyükada when I had no lawyers at my side. The only place my passwords were asked for by the police was in the interrogation at Vatan Street. And I said I could give my passwords at my lawyer’s side.”
Günal Kurşun started his defence. Günal Kurşun said: “Despite facing harsher charges in the trial in which I was prosecuted in Adana, no need was felt for detention. But, I have been detained on flimsier grounds in these proceedings. Our communications with the world were cut off for more than thirty hours and we didn’t know why we had been apprehended, but there were details in the newspapers that came out the next day.”
Kurşun listed one by one the improprieties conducted in the arrest process. Günal Kurşun stated that the rules were not observed even though he is a lawyer. Kurşun said: “We were held for thirteen days with the lights on and no perception of day and night. The prosecutor, having written in the indictment that I didn’t give my passwords, read the passwords I gave the police from the police record in his hand.” Günal Kurşun stated that the prosecutor entering in the indictment that he hadn’t given the passwords despite giving them amounted to tampering with the evidence. Kurşun said: “The commander phoned me from the police training branch about me giving legal training to members of the Adana police, and I was detained because he had ByLock. Had that stuff not been dished up in the media after we had been arrested, I am of the opinion that we would not have come to this point. EFTs through which I gave loans have been included in the indictment but the EFTs in which repayment of the loans was made to me are absent from the indictment. Loan dealings with my twenty-year friend Orhan Kemal Cengiz have featured in the indictment. I have opposed violence of all kinds in my life. I did not even fight as a child. In the period when I wrote for Today’s Zaman newspaper, so did Übrahim Kalın, Beril Dedeoğlu and Markar Esayan. My writing for it is adduced as evidence. Even though I wrote articles professionally and there was a contract, and even though the contract was with the prosecutor, the prosecutor did not place it in the indictment.
None of us could ever be a terrorist organisation member
None of us could ever be a terrorist organisation member. You are wasting your time. If one emerges, they are not a human rights defender. Human rights defenders by their nature oppose violence. I ask which organisation we are supposed to be members of. A cocktail organisation. We are accused of being members simultaneously of three different organisations. Prison management, which gave me a seven-metre line to dry laundry on when I entered Silivri prison, did not give me a tie to wear when appearing before you.

I have a one-and-a-half-year-old son and he called me “dad” for the first time. I have not been at his side for four months. I seek my immediate release.” Günal Kurşun completed his defence.
Nalan Erkem started her defence. Nalan Erkem said: “It is most upsetting as a jurist to encounter such an indictment. An indictment of this nature has cropped up before us with the prosecution not having taken any explanation into account and not having heard a civil society organisation’s administrator as a witness.”

Nalan Erkem presented the civil society organisation members of the Human Rights Joint Platform. She spoke of the national and international work of these bodies. Erkem stated, “Stress management and digital protection were the topics most requested at the widely attended assessment meeting we held in April”
Erkem continued her defence: “The prosecutor, despite the statements of the bodies that organised the meeting, alleges that a secret meeting was held. The allegation of secrecy in the indictment is demolished by the prosecutor’s own secret witness. He states that he heard what was being said through the open door while in the toilet queue. It is impossible for a salon next to the shower space for those entering and exiting the pool surrounded by windows and whose door was open to serve as the venue for a secret meeting. The prosecution has gathered none of the evidence whose gathering was sought. The prosecution has not procured the camera footage showing the salon.”
Erkem said, “One day prior to being arrested, we participated at Bianet’s 100-person dinner. We spoke about our meeting there. We invited people to observe. We provided the prosecution with all our witnesses and their addresses. None of their statements has been taken. I posted photographs of the hotel and gave its name on Instagram over the meeting. How is that a secret meeting?
Phones were open and the door was open for the duration of the meeting and what we said was audible outside. But the meeting is alleged to have been secret. The improper search of my computer in another matter. With the police required to take a visual record of my computer by my side, they did not do so. We are faced with an investigation that does not even recognise a court record as evidence. A document that was distributed to all lawyers by the court in the Zirve trial, at which I participated as a lawyer, has been adduced as evidence against me. I am being held in detention due to a document distributed by a serious crime court bench. I am a lawyer. I cannot believe that I am being prosecuted under such an indictment.”
Erkem said, “Discussions I had with my client are adduced as evidence against me. Despite having submitted all the related documents, the prosecution has paid no heed. It is stated in the indictment that I did not provide my passwords. There is simply no password on any of my digital equipment. Nobody asked me for a password, either. You can’t help wondering if the prosecutor is drafting the indictment having forgotten the evidence he himself gathered.
I had gastric bleeding. I was unable to access treatment for two months after being arrested. My bleeding continued for two months. They did not give the medication that the doctors prescribed.” Nalan Erkem finished her defence.
A recess was held.
VELİ ACU: What is on trial here is my humanity
Veli Acu started his defence. Veli Acu said, “I work at the United Nations. I am continuing my postgraduate degree in the area of human rights. I am here entirely by coincidence, in common with the other colleagues. None of the training materials that were gathered when the arrest was made is in the indictment. This is because there is no criminal element to any of them. If we are so dangerous, why was attendance made at our homes seven days after having been arrested? This is because there was a wish to fabricate evidence against us. I am being prosecuted because I am of assistance to people. What is on trial here is my humanity. I have been assisting refugees for the past three years. At that meeting, I spoke of events in which fourteen-year-old daughters are forced into marriage. The colleagues at the meeting who listened to what I said wept. I used the four books on the USB about my person as footnotes in the article I wrote while doing my postgraduate degree in 2013.
I also submitted the article in which I used these books in footnotes to my teacher Tanıl Bora.
I am also submitting them to the court. Correspondence that I made to assist a LGBT person who was going to come to Urfa has been place in the indictment. LGBT means lesbian, gay, bisexual trans. I don’t understand why this has been placed in the indictment. I am going into detail to show the deluge used to conceal the truth.”
Veli Acu provided details one by one of the EFTs that had made their way into the indictment. Acu said, “It is in the indictment. My friend owes me 250 lira. How about if I adduce this indictment as evidence and sue him?
We spoke about the time a LGBT activist would remain in Turkey and where they would stay. I have no ties to any of the terrorist organisations mentioned here. Never mind those who resort to violence, those who praise them have no business among us. Five of us stayed for thirteen days in a place for accommodating two people with the lights never turned off.
My left eye is artificial. I cannot take care of myself alone. My medication was given after ten days. I must go to the doctor every three months. My wife is nine-months pregnant. She is undergoing a risky pregnancy. I want to be at her side when she gives birth. I have committed absolutely no crime. I have been a member of no terrorist organisation. I seek my release and acquittal”
The attorney presented the assignment in question and health documents to the presiding judge.
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