Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, and French Ambassador for Human Rights François Croquette issued the following joint statement on the trial today (8 October) and tomorrow against Osman Kavala, renowned Turkish businessman and founder of Anadolu Kültür, as well as Taner Kılıç, former director of Amnesty International’s Turkish section, and the “Istanbul 10”:
We continue to observe with great concern the situation facing civil society and human rights activists in Turkey. We will therefore follow the forthcoming trials against Osman Kavala and his co‑defendant, as well as Taner Kılıç and the “Istanbul 10”, very closely.
Germany and France expect rule of law standards, to which Turkey has committed itself, to be met. Although we welcome the ruling by the Constitutional Court in favour of the Academics for Peace in late July and the subsequent acquittals as a first positive signal, it is time for more good news from Turkey.
Osman Kavala, director of the Turkish cultural foundation, Anadolu Kültür, has been in prison since 18 October 2017. After almost 500 days without being indicted, he and 15 others were charged with, among other things, “attempting to overthrow the Government”. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is calling for life imprisonment without parole. The main charges concern the demonstrations in 2013 known as the Gezi Park protests, which the defendants are accused of planning and organising. As well as the charge of attempting to overthrow the Government, the indictment includes the unauthorised carrying of dangerous substances, the causing of damage to places of worship and cemeteries, serious plundering, grievous bodily harm and damage to property. Alongside Osman Kavala, his co‑defendant Yiğit Aksakoğlu was also held in detention. On the first day of the trial (25 June 2019), the court ordered that Yiğit Aksakoğlu be released. French Human Rights Ambassador François Croquette and Andreas Görgen, Director-General for Culture and Communication at the Federal Foreign Office, will be present to observe the proceedings on 8 October 2019.
Osman Kavala’s co‑defendants are Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Ali Hakan Altınay, Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Can Dündar, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Memet Ali Alabora, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi.
The former director of Amnesty International’s Turkish section, Taner Kılıç, was arrested in Izmir on 6 June 2017. The Public Prosecutor’s Office accused him of “membership of a terrorist organisation”. His trial has been combined with the one against the “Istanbul 10”, including the former director of Amnesty International’s Turkish section, Idil Eser, and the German human rights activist Peter Steudtner. They were arrested on Büyükada island off Istanbul on 5 July 2017. All those arrested had organised a routine workshop for human rights defenders there. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has accused them of membership of or support for terrorist organisations. The trial will continue on 9 October 2019.
In early September, the proceedings against some of the Academics for Peace ended with the dismissal of the cases against them or their acquittal. More than 2000 professors, lecturers and researchers had signed the petition in early 2016 criticising the actions taken by the security forces against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south-east Turkey. On 26 July 2019, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that the conviction of the signatories for “terrorist propaganda” violated their right to freedom of expression.