Guest Blog: Trial of Çarsı football fans accused of attempting to overthrow the government is as farcical as it sounds.

I was present on 2 April at Europe’s biggest court house, the Cağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul, to observe the second hearing in the prosecution of members of the fan club Çarşı of the Istanbul football club Beşiktaş. Thirty five people stand accused of a “attempting to overthrow the government” through their participation in Gezi Park protests that shook Turkey in summer 2013. They face up to life imprisonment if found guilty.

Start of Besiktas' soccer fans Carsi members trial in Istanbul

A few other international observers were present, among them two lawyers and some football fans from Germany.. Unlike the first hearing on Dec. 16, 2014, Çarşı fans did not hold a solidarity demonstration outside the courthouse out of respect for the Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was killed at the courthouse during a siege by the armed leftist group DHKP-C the previous day.

The indictment submitted by prosecutors accuses leaders of the group of inciting protesters and seeking to overthrow the government by creating an “Arab Spring-like” situation in Turkey.

Drafted by Prosecutor Adem Meral, the 38-page indictment accuses the defendants of violating articles of the Turkish Penal Code as well as anti-terrorism laws and the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, and possession of fire arms. Some of the charges included “attempting to demolish or impede the functioning of Republic of Turkey, forming a terrorist organization, resisting public officials and damaging property”.  Both the 35 people on trial and the Çarşı supporters group reject the accusations.

At the court hearing the last 7 of 35 defendants to do so made their statements to the court. Ayhan Güner, a prominent figure of Çarşı, rejects all accusations against its members and says: “The Çarşı group is not a coup-plotter. The Gezi protests are the renaissance and Çarşı is its Michelangelo.”

Four police officers, there as plaintiffs, were questioned by the judge. All of them said they did not see the Çarşı group during the clashes. One police officer said he was wounded during a clash with another group. Unexpectedly, they all withdraw their complaints.  There is no plaintiffs left!

Afterwards two police officers are asked as witnesses about a piece of evidence, a bottle, which had been found during a search of a defendants house?. Both police officers stated that it was a plastic bottle containing a substance that turned out to be water, belonging to the brother of the suspect for his drug use. It was a bong and not a “bomb equipment” as presentenced in the indictment!

The next hearing is due to take place on 26 June.

Barbara Neppert
Amnesty International-Germany Turkey co-ordinator

Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi Protest | Tagged , , , , ,

Impunity and death in Turkey: Another young life cut short

A tragic turn in a tragic story today, as news sources reported that a teenaged boy, Serhat Savaş succumbed to a wound he received from being struck in the head by a teargas canister last October.  He had been in critical condition for the past seven months.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Impunity | Tagged , , , , , ,

Another appalling prosecution of journalists in Turkey

It didn’t take long.  After yesterday’s good news in the trial of Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink, in which the prosecutor moved for acquittal, came news from Istanbul that another prosecutor was asking for 4.5 years each for journalists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya for their republication of  a cover image of the Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo. 

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of COnscience, Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Blog: Seeking Justice for Abdullah Cömert

Abdullah Cömert

Abdullah Cömert

“You killed my son on purpose!”

These are the words that Hatice Cömert cries out in the courtroom as she bursts into tears while watching the footage from the scene of the crime where her 22 year-old son, Abdullah Cömert, was hit in the head by a tear gas canister on 3 June 2013, and died of his injuries. The footage shows a police “scorpion” armoured vehicle firing tear gas canisters. All of us present in the courtroom can hear two shots and then people screaming out in fear “Abdullah, Abdullah”.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Excessive Force, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Gezi, Impunity, Turkey | Tagged , , , , ,

Guest Blog: Surprising turn in trial Dutch journalist: good news?

 

Fréderike Geerdink

Fréderike Geerdink

April 8, 2015 | The trial of Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink took an unexpected turn this morning in Diyarbakır’s 6th High Criminal Court. After she delivered her statement pleading not guilty to the charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation, the prosecutor went over the indictment. To everyone’s surprise, he demanded her acquittal.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , ,

Some good news in the bad trial of Fréderike Geerdink

Amnesty has been closely following the troubling story of journalist Fréderike Geerdink’s prosecution under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Today, there was some very good news in a very bad trial: the prosecutor has asked for an acquittal decision Monday. One can only be delighted by this sudden shift in events.  The landscape in which these events occurred, however, is deeply troubling.

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Posted in Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , ,

The troubling message of this week’s internet bans in Turkey

Internet Rights Protest, 2011.  Photo by Kevglobal

Internet Rights Protest, 2011. Photo by Kevglobal

The ban, earlier this week, of of facebook, twitter, and youtube, along with a threatened ban of google proved to be short lasting.  The chilling message the ban sends regarding freedom of expression in Turkey is nonetheless deeply disturbing.

“The Turkish authorities have a disturbing history when it comes to freedom of expression online, with a track record of resorting to blanket internet bans when something they don’t like is published,” said Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International.

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Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Expression, Internet Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , ,

Turkey again blocks social media

twitter-bird-censored

A Turkish court order has again blocked major social media tools today, citing publication of images from last week’s attack on an Istanbul courthouse DHKP-C.  Access to facebook, twitter, and youtube have reportedly been blocked throughout the country.

The current ban follows in a long, unseemly history of Turkish efforts to control social media.  In March, 2014, Turkish authorities also banned social media outlets.  Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey said at the time:

The Turkish government appears to be itching for pretexts to close down websites because of their capacity to mobilize dissenting opinion and broadcast embarrassing material… Even if the Turkish authorities have legitimate concerns about some of the content that might appear, it is completely disproportionate to enforce a blanket YouTube ban in the entire country. Access to YouTube must be restored immediately and the authorities must stop blocking sites that expose abuses and provide a platform for dissenting views.

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What was true then is no less true today.  Yet these bans are only the most blunt weapon that Turkey is employing against free expression on social media: the ban comes in the context of scores of prosecutions under loosely worded anti-terror and anti-defamation statutes which have targeted and punished critical voices on social media.

As I wrote in the wake of the 2014 social media bans:

Clearly, these bans are an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression. Just as clearly, however, they are part of what Amnesty has described as “a wider pre-meditated crackdown on freedom of expression.”

Internet restrictions are an important part of the problem, but they are only the most obvious example of a larger attack on dissent.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

Posted in Amnesty International, Freedom of Expression, Internet Freedom, Turkey | Tagged , , , ,

Amnesty International condemns the hostage taking and killing of Istanbul prosecutor

In a statement yesterday, Amnesty International condemned the hostage taking and killing of Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz at the Cağlayan Court House:

In a video circulated via social media, a masked hostage taker was shown holding a gun to the head of the prosecutor. Amnesty International condemns the act of hostage taking which violates the most basic principles of international law. The organisation calls for the authorities to launch a thorough and impartial investigation into the incident and to bring all those responsible to justice in a fair trial.

Amnesty also has called for “impartial and independent investigation into the police operation in which both hostage takers were shot dead and in which the prosecutor also died of gunshot wounds.”

Mehmet-Selim-Kiraz_3252648b

Finally, Amnesty continues to call for justice in the death of Berkin Elvan.

Mehmet Selim Kiraz was the latest prosecutor to be assigned to the investigation into the death of 14 year-old Berkin Elvan who died following injuries sustained at the scene of a Gezi Park protest in June 2013. According to witnesses, Berkin Elvan was hit by a tear gas canister fired by a police officer from close range. Despite this, the police officers have not yet been identified and no prosecution has been brought.

Posted in Amnesty International, Gezi Park | Tagged , ,

Amnesty responds to “Draconian Reforms”

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Amnesty International has responded to the security bill just passed by Turkey’s Parliament, calling the legislation “draconian” and likely to “[facilitate] facilitates the already widespread practice of arbitrary detentions during protests and paves the way for further human rights violations including politically motivated criminal investigations and violations of the right to life.”
Read the press statement in its entirety, here.

Posted in Amnesty International | Tagged ,