Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler today (3 July) issued the following statement on today’s hearing in the “Özgür Gündem” trials against renowned human rights activist Eren Keskin:
Today’s hearing continues the internationally controversial trial of Eren Keskin and her co‑defendants.
The trials of Eren Keskin, Taner Kılıç and the “Istanbul 10”, representing a number of others, have so far failed to produce any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Instead, they are criminalising legitimate engagement for human rights.
It is high time to put an end to this legal harassment and stop intimidating civil society. I call urgently on Turkey to remember its international obligations.
Human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, founding member and long-serving president of the Human Rights Association in Turkey (IHD), served as editor‑in‑chief of the “Özgür Gündem” newspaper from 2013 to 2016. She assumed this role as a symbolic gesture and to show solidarity with the pro‑Kurdish newspaper on which pressure was being exerted. Keskin is being investigated in over 130 proceedings in connection with this activity. Judgements in first instance have been pronounced in some of these proceedings. The penalties imposed up to the end of May 2019 alone total 16 years and three months of imprisonment and substantial fines.
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 been taking part in a routine workshop for human rights defenders there. The public prosecution office has accused them of membership of or support for terrorist organisations. The next hearing in their trial is to take place on 16 July 2019.