Turkey Convicts Human Rights Activists of “Terrorism”

  • Seven other activists were acquitted.
  • Peter Steudtner accuses Turkey of politics, by releasing Amnesty activists who are not Turkish.
  • There are a number of people in Turkish prisons who have been detained for their media, political, or human rights activities.

According to Amnesty International, a court in Istanbul on Friday sentenced Taner Kilic, the group’s former chairman in Turkey, to more than six years in prison for “membership in a terrorist group.” The court also convicted three other human rights activists, including Idil Eser, of charges of aiding a “terror group.”

Taner Kılıç is a Turkish civil rights activist who is one of the founding members of the Turkey section of the human rights organization Amnesty International and its president since 2014. Kılıç was detained by Turkish authorities for alleged terrorist activities on 6 June 2017, during the 2016–17 purges in Turkey.

Seven other activists, including Peter Steudtner, a German human rights activist, and Ali Gharavi, an Iranian-Swedish colleague, were acquitted. The ten were arrested in 2017 for “terrorist acts” in Turkey.

In a press statement on Friday, Amnesty International, along with other human rights organizations, called on the Istanbul court to release all 11 members and their colleagues. On that day, 11 people were sentenced to prison in Turkey on similar charges. Five other people were acquitted.

The trial of the group, all of whom are members of Amnesty International in Turkey, has been closely monitored by the international community. Steudtner was not present at the trial. He was allowed to leave Turkey in October 2017 after four months in prison.

Steudtner Condemns the Judiciary

“The Turkish judiciary has lost an important opportunity to strengthen the rule of law and human rights,” Steudtner told AFP in response to court rulings. He also expressed doubts about the rule of law in Turkey, saying, “these rulings show that in Turkey, not only is human rights not respected, but they are also being prosecuted.”

Although he has been acquitted, he does not want to travel to Turkey at the moment, saying that whenever the human rights situation in Turkey improves, he will go there again. Stuttner added that he was not afraid of his sentence but was worried about his colleagues. His concerns were confirmed by court rulings. Referring to his German citizenship, he stressed that “international pressure has had a big impact on it.”

Political Strategy

Last November, the Istanbul prosecutor demanded the acquittal of Steudtner, Gharavi, and three others, and sentenced six others to prison. Steudtner, Gharavi, and eight other colleagues were arrested during a workshop in June 2017 in Buyukada, on the coast of Istanbul.

He and Gharavi were invited as speakers. Mr. Kılıç’s case was later added to the group’s case (charged with membership in a terrorist group). He was arrested a year earlier, and is being held in a prison in Izmir.

On Tuesday, Steudtner spoke in a press conference about a “political strategy.” That is, Turkey intends to reduce international pressure by releasing representatives of Amnesty International who are not Turkish citizens.

Gyde Jensen, chairman of the German Bundestag’s human rights committee, has called for the release of all 11 people, saying freedom should not be limited to German nationals who have the special support of the German government because of their nationality.

Peter Steudtner is a German human rights activist and documentary filmer. On 5 July 2017 Steudtner, along with nine other human right defenders, was arrested by Turkish security forces. He has been held in custody since then; the Turkish justice accuses him of having supported armed terrorist organizations.

The arrest of Steudtner and other German nationals in Turkey has strained relations between Turkey and Germany since 2017. Amnesty International today condemned the Istanbul court rulings and called them political. The organization says the court has no evidence against the 11 suspects.

There are a number of people in Turkish prisons who have been detained for their media, political, or human rights activities. Among them is Selahattin Demirtas, a Kurdish politician and former leader of the People’s Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP).

He has been in prison since November 2016 on charges of “terrorist propaganda” and “links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).” Despite a Turkish Constitutional Court ruling, he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2017, a group of journalists, including Mashala Tolo and Denise Eugel, both German-Turkish journalists, were arrested. Both were released in 2018 and returned to Germany.

The fate of some Germans of Turkish descent did not end in freedom. An example is Huzan Janeh, a famous German Kurdish singer who has been imprisoned in Turkey since the summer of 2018. A former resident of Cologne, he was arrested on charges of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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