Duvar English

An Istanbul court sentenced four rights defenders to prison during a hearing at the Çağlayan Courthouse of the Büyükada case on July 3.

The court sentenced Amnesty International Turkey’s Honorary Chair Taner Kılıç to six years and three months in prison over “terrorist organization membership.”

Günal Kuşun, İdil Eser and Özlem Dalkıran were handed one year and 13 months jail terms each over “aiding a terrorist organization.”

Nalan Erkem, lknur Üstün, Ali Gharavi, Peter Steudtner, Veli Acu, Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli were acquitted.

The rights defenders will appeal the ruling.

A total of 11 rights defenders were being tried in the Büyükada Case, including Kılıç and its former executive director İdil Eser, on various charges, including “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” and “aiding armed terrorist organizations.”

They were detained in 2017 while they were attending a human rights workshop on Büyükada, an island near Istanbul.

After more than 14 months in prison, Kılıç was released on bail in August 2018. Eight of the others, including two foreign nationals, spent almost four months each behind bars before they were released in October 2017.

A day earlier, Amnesty International said that 11 human defenders need to be acquitted because only the acquittal of all “could deliver justice for the activists who face baseless terrorism charges.”

Before the hearing on July 3, rights organizations released a joint statement, saying that they expect an acquittal ruling for all.

The court head prevented members of the press from entering the courthouse, citing “the lack of space inside.”

A number of international observers were allowed to follow the hearing.

Speaking at the beginning of the hearing, Steudtner’s lawyer Murat Deha Boduroğlu said that sentencing even one of the 11 defenders would mean violating the rights of all.

Gharavi’s lawyer Oğul Güner Olgun said that “it’s impossible for the court to make up for the pains we suffered, but it’s possible for it to end injustice.”

“None of us should’ve been arrested,” he told the court.

“We are not terrorists. We only defended human rights,” Olgun added.

Dalkıran’s lawyer Aynur Tuncel Yazgan said, “The whole human rights community is being tried here.”

“The prosecutor says, ‘Working for human rights and demanding rights and freedoms for all are crimes.’ The aim is to silence and intimidate human rights organizations,” Yazgan said.

“Which one of our actions support terror or aim to do so? The prosecutor’s opinion doesn’t state that. Even though three years have passed [since the beginning of the case], international human rights defenders are questioning whether it’s safe to attend meetings in Turkey,” she said.