Amnesty says rights defenders’ should be acquitted ahead of Turkey trial verdict

Amnesty International said on Thursday that only the acquittal of all 11 human rights defenders, who have spent nearly three years fighting terrorism charges, could deliver justice for the activists.

The 11 activists, including the honorary chair of Turkey’s Amnesty International branch of Taner Kılıç and the rights group's former Turkey director İdil Eser, were arrested in a police raid in 2017 over a workshop on digital security and charged with spying and aiding a terrorist organisation. A verdict is expected on Friday.

Eight of them, including two foreign nationals, spent 113 days in prison before being released on bail, while Kılıç was released after spending 14 months in prison on charges of membership of the Gülen movement, which Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 and designates as a terrorist organisation.

“Tomorrow, the eyes of the world will be on the courtroom in Istanbul. Any verdict other than acquittal for the 11 would send a shiver down the spines of those who believe in peaceful civil society activism,” Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s newly-appointed Europe director, said.

At the tenth hearing in November 2019, the prosecutor requested acquittals for five of the 11, and convictions for the remaining six. The human rights defenders face up to 15 years behind bars if found guilty. 

“From the start, this has been a politically-motivated trial, just like so many others against other human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists,” Eser said.