The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan, a prominent human rights lawyer and Co-Chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD).
On April 19, 2022, Öztürk Türkdoğan will appear for the second time before the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court under the accusation of “membership to an illegal armed organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Criminal Code of Turkey) following his indictment by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. This charge stems from an investigation conducted by the prosecutor’s office into Mr. Türkdoğan’s peaceful human rights activities in his capacity as İHD Co-Chairperson. Particularly, Mr. Türkdoğan is targeted for his public statements on Abdullah Öcalan’s detention conditions in İmralı Prison1, as well as his cooperation with international delegations, members of the parliament, state officials and international organisations, including the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). If convicted and sentenced, Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan faces between five and ten years of imprisonment.
The first hearing of the case took place on February 22, 2022. During the hearing, the judge decided to limit oral defense to three lawyers thus denying Mr. Türkdoğan's request to be defended by his full legal team. The decision was rendered by the presiding judge alone, without conferring with members or the prosecutor office. Furthermore, the judge ruled to keep in force the travel ban imposed on Mr. Türkdoğan on March 19, 2021. On that date, police officers raided the house of Mr. Türkdoğan in Ankara who was taken into police custody and subsequently released in the evening under judicial control pending investigation.
The Observatory further recalls that since December 2021, Öztürk Türkdoğan is facing two additional criminal proceedings solely aimed at targeting his and İHD’s peaceful human rights activities and freedom of expression. Mr. Türkdoğan faces the charge of “degrading the Turkish nation, state of the Turkish Republic and institutions and organs of the sate” (Article 301 of the Criminal Code) before the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance in relation to an article titled “Stop Denying the Armenian Genocide for Justice and Truth” published by İHD on its website on April 24, 2017. If convicted and sentenced on this charge, Mr. Türkdoğan faces between six months and two years of imprisonment.
In addition, Öztürk Türkdoğan faces the charge of “insult” (Article 125/3 of the Criminal Code) before the Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance in relation to an İHD statement published on June 29, 2018 condemning the public statements made by the Interior Minister of Turkey targeting, threatening and insulting civil society organisations, politicians and the population. The first planned hearing in this case was supposed to take place on February 18, 2022, but was postponed till May, after the judge came up with a baseless excuse. If convicted and sentenced, Mr. Türkdoğan faces up to two years of imprisonment under this charge.
The Observatory underlines that İHD and its members have been subjected to judicial harassment and intimidations by the authorities for years because of their peaceful human rights activities and exercise of freedom of expression and association, including the sentencing of Ms. Eren Keskin, Co-President of the İHD, and the threats and acts of stigmatisation against the organisation.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Öztürk Türkdoğan and urges the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of harassment against him, including at the judicial level, and drop all charges pressed against him in the framework of the above-mentioned criminal cases.
The Observatory further urges the authorities in Turkey to put an end to the targeting of İHD and all human rights defenders and organisations in the country. The Observatory more generally calls on the authorities to ensure that all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Öztürk Türkdoğan, of İHD members and of all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan, İHD members and all other human rights defenders in Turkey, as well as against İHD and all organisations engaged in legitimate human rights activities in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: email@example.com
- Minister of Justice, Mr. Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador Mr. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.