Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office Bärbel Kofler issued the following statement today (4 September) on what has become known as the Özgür Gündem main trial against the renowned human rights lawyer Eren Keskin and her three co‑defendants:
I reiterate my appeal to the Turkish judiciary to grant Eren Keskin and her co‑defendants a fair trial in accordance with the rule of law – in keeping with Turkey’s international obligations.
Freedom of the press and freedom of opinion are the backbone of any democratic, pluralistic society. Unfortunately, decisions have for some time been taken in Turkey that seek to intimidate civil society and silence critical voices. It is thus all the more important for us to keep a close watch on the trial of Ms Keskin. Her efforts to help her fellow humans and her courage to raise human rights issues time and again regardless of the risk to herself, deserve our respect.
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 now banned Özgür Gündem newspaper from 2013 to 2016. She assumed this role as a symbolic gesture and to show solidarity with the left-wing newspaper dedicated to Kurdish issues, on which pressure was being exerted. More than 140 cases have been instigated against her in connection with this role and with other expressions of political opinions.
The charges in the Özgür Gündem main trial are membership of a terrorist organisation, for which the sentence is up to 15 years, as well as spreading terrorist propaganda and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the Turkish state. Her remaining co‑defendants are Zana Bilir Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı. Filiz Koçali, Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut have since been acquitted.
Further cases against Eren Keskin have already been decided at first instance and are awaiting the verdicts of various appeal courts. In the event of a binding conviction by an appeal court, she faces prison sentences of up to 17 years and two months.