More than 70 renowned cultural and political figures have come together to demand that Turkish authorities drop trumped-up terrorism charges against 11 human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey Director and Chair.
The call made by more than 30 politicians and scores of artists – including Edward Snowden, Sting, Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor, Catherine Deneuve, Angélique Kidjo – comes as the trial of the 11 resumes in Istanbul on charges which carry jail terms of up to 15 years.
“We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail,” they write in the letter.
“When human rights defenders are silenced, all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones that stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them.”
Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested on 6 June and has been in jail ever since. Ten other activists, including İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, were arrested a month later. Eight of them were remanded in Turkey’s highest security Silivri prison for almost four months and released last month at their first hearing. They are all accused of “membership of a terrorist organization”.
The charges against the 11 include outlandish claims that standard human rights work amounts to ‘assisting terrorist organizations’.
Taner Kılıç is alleged to have downloaded and used the ByLock messaging application, which the prosecution has claimed was used by the Gülen movement to communicate with each other. However, two independent forensic analyses of Taner’s phone commissioned by Amnesty International found that there is no trace of ByLock ever having been on his phone. So far, the prosecution have not provided any evidence to prove their claim. The forensic expert who prepared the detailed reports is expected to appear at the trial on 22 November.
The signatories join a long list of governments, institutions and political figures that have demanded Taner’s release including the European Commission, the US State Department, UN officials, Angela Merkel and the German government as well as the Austrian, Irish and Belgian governments.
More than 20 British MPs have so far signed a parliamentary motion tabled last week calling for the immediate release of Taner and the dropping of charges against the 11. This follows similar calls last month by 22 members of the US Congress including 14 Senators as well as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and the Chair of the Human Rights Committee in the European Parliament, Pier Antonio Panzeri.
“What we are witnessing is a massive groundswell of opinion against what is clearly a politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within the country,” said Aakar Patel, the Director of Amnesty India, who is attending the trial.
“This trial has served not only to remind people of the importance of human rights, but the vital role played by those that defend them. The time has come for Taner to be released and for the charges against him and the Istanbul 10 to be dropped,” said Fernando Nabais da Furriela, the Chair of Amnesty International Brazil, who is also attending the trial.
The Istanbul 10 were attending a workshop on wellbeing and digital security on 5 July when police raided the building and detained them all. On 4 October an Istanbul prosecutor filed an indictment against the so-called Istanbul 10 and Taner Kılıç, who, it claims was aware of preparations for the Büyükada workshop and was in contact with İdil and another of the defendants. At his trial on 26 October, the judge accepted the prosecutor’s application to join Taner’s case with the case against the other 10 human rights defenders.
The ten human rights defenders are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (IT strategy consultant), Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer) and İlknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Nalan Erkem,(Citizens Assembly), Şeyhmus Özbekli (Rights Initiative) and Nejat Taştan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights).
More than 700,000 people have signed Amnesty International actions calling for the release of Taner and the dropping of the charges against the Istanbul 10.
Text of open letter ahead of the upcoming trial of Taner Kılıç and the Istanbul 10
On Wednesday the trial of 11 human rights defenders including Taner Kılıç, and İdil Eser the chair and director of Amnesty International Turkey, will resume in Istanbul.
The 11 face outlandish “terrorism” charges in what can only be described as a politically motivated prosecution aimed at silencing critical voices within the country. If convicted they could face jail terms of up to 15 years. This sends a chilling message not just to people in Turkey but around the world.
With many people unfairly imprisoned as part of the crackdown following the bloody coup attempt in Turkey – including journalists, lawyers and civil society leaders – some may ask why focus on these 11 people? The answer is simple: when human rights defenders are silenced all our rights are put at risk. They are the ones that stand up for us. Now we must stand up for them.
We are proud to add our voices to the global demand to end this gross injustice and to immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kılıç from jail.
The Turkish authorities must know that the eyes of the world will be on Istanbul’s central court for this trial. We will not stay silent. Defending human rights is not a crime.
Edward Snowden, human rights defender
Catherine Deneuve, actor
Ai Weiwei, artist
Angélique Kidjo, musician
Anish Kapoor, artist
Peter Gabriel, musician
Francois Morel, actor
Elif Shafak, author
Bianca Jagger, human rights activist
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Indira Varma, actor (Game of Thrones)
Mogens Lykketoft MP, ex-President of the UN General Assembly
Nacho Sanchez Amor, OSCE Human Rights Committee Chair
Mirosław Wyrzykowski, Constitutional judge, Poland
Dr. Shashi Tharoor MP (former UN Under-Secretary General)
Ryan Gage, actor
Pasha Bocarie, actor
Nazanin Boniadi, actor
C 215, artist
Lucas Belvaux, film maker
Laurent Gaudé, writer
El Moustach/Hicham Gaoua, artist
Said Salhi, Vice president of LADDH (Algeria)
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General
Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Claude Rolin MP (Belgium)
Tanita Tikaram, musician
Mohamed Fahmy, journalist
Peter Greste, journalist
Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral
Peter Tatchell, human rights defender
Natacha Régnier, actor
Franck Pavloff, writer
Emily Loizeau, musician
Romain Goupil, film director
Nicolas Lambert, comedian
Clotilde Courau, comedian
David Lammy MP (UK)
Caroline Lucas MP (UK)
Stephen McCabe MP (UK)
Tom Brake MP (UK)
Catherine West MP (UK)
Carol Monaghan MP (UK
Joan Ryan MP (UK)
Christopher Stephens MP (UK)
Kevin Brennan MP (UK)
Jim Cunningham MP (UK)
Rosie Cooper MP (UK)
Eleanor Smith MP (UK)
Wes Streeting MP (UK)
Stephen Doughty MP (UK)
Daniel Zeichner MP (UK)
Stephen Kinnock MP (UK)
Geraint Davies MP (UK)
Marie Rimmer MP (UK)
Grahame Morris MP (UK)
Antoinette Sandbach MP (UK)
Madeleine Moon MP (UK)
Tonia Antoniazzi MP (UK)
Preet Gill MP (UK)
Phillipa Whitford MP (UK)
Sarah Wollaston MP (UK)
Gareth Thomas MP (UK)
Emma Dent Coad MP (UK)
Hilary Benn MP MP (UK)
Tommy Sheppard MP (UK)
Olivier Py, France
Paul Rondin, France
Monika Płatek, President of the Polish Association for Legal Education
Adam Bodnar, former board of United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture
Mikołaj Pietrzak, former Chair of the Human Rights Council of the Polish Bar Council
Krzysztof Śmiszek, co-founder of Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law