Germany slams Erdoğan, Turkish judiciary over ‘disgraceful’ convictions

A German politician has said that the “disgraceful” conviction of four human rights defenders shows there is no independent judiciary in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and that Germany should consider issuing a warning over travel to the country.

Four prominent human rights defenders, who spent over three years fighting terrorism charges, were convicted and jailed by a Turkish court on Friday.

“The disgraceful judgment against four internationally-recognised human rights defenders makes it shockingly clear that the Turkish leadership does not want to see an end to the persecution of courageous activists who campaign for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Michael Brand, a lawmaker with Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union of Germany party and chairman of a parliamentary working group on Human Rights, said in a statement on Friday.

Brand said that the acquittal of a German defendant, Peter Steudtner, along with another six human rights defenders could not detract from the fact that the convictions were “a disgrace for the Turkish judiciary, which was once committed to the rule of law”.

He said that the baseless allegations against the defendants made it clear that justice in Turkey is arbitrary, and the trial was intended to intimidate human rights defenders in Turkey. 

“There is no independent judiciary free from intervention by the Turkish government under President Erdoğan,” he said. 

Brand called for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Turkey, and said that Germany’s government should consider issuing a new travel warning for Turkey. 

“With this arbitrary justice, no one can be sure that he or she will not be arrested on flimsy grounds, or innocently accused and detained, while on vacation in Turkey," he said.

Eleven activists, including the honorary chair and former director of Turkey’s Amnesty International branch, Taner Kılıç and İdil Eser, respectively, were accused of plotting a coup in a 2017 workshop on digital security at a hotel on Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul’s Princes’ islands.

The 35th High Criminal Court in Istanbul sentenced Kılıç to six years and three months in prison for alleged “membership of a terrorist organisation”, while Eser and two other activists, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, received two years and one month each for “aiding a terrorist organisation”.

The court acquitted the remaining defendants: Veli Acu, Nalan Erkem, Ali Gharavi, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Peter Steudtner, Nejat Taştan and İlknur Üstün.