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PACE monitors express their deep concern and expectations ahead of Turkey trials

The PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA), have expressed their deep concern and expectations ahead of two trials of civil society activists to be held in Turkey this week.

“In the past months, we have welcomed the stated intention of the Turkish authorities to expand freedom of expression when reforming the judiciary and drafting a new Human Rights Action Plan. We now hope they will seize every opportunity to turn good intentions into practical steps. The recent acquittal of writer Asli Erdogan is, in this context, a welcome and positive move,” they said.

“This week, we will follow with great attention court hearings in two emblematic trials: the next hearing of the “Gezi Park trial” involving 16 civil society activists accused of organising the 2013 protests, to be held on 18 February 2020, and the “Büyükada trial” concerning civil society activists who attended a human rights seminar in 2017, which is due to resume on the following day,” they added.

“In the ‘Gezi Park trial’, we are highly concerned by the life sentences requested against renowned philanthropist Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, for allegedly using coercion and violence and attempting to overthrow the government and heavy prison sentences against other activists for their alleged support. We expect the Turkish judges to be guided by the recent Chamber ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which asked for the immediate release of Osman Kavala, and we expect all charges against the 16 civil society activists to be dropped.

In the ‘Büyükada trial’, we reiterate earlier calls to drop the charges against Taner Kılıç, Honorary Chairman of Amnesty International Turkey - who faces 15 years in jail - and acquit all other human rights defenders being prosecuted for terrorism-related charges,” they said.

“We hope the Turkish authorities will be consistent with their stated intentions and take into full account recent rulings of the Turkish Constitutional Court on freedom of expression and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights. We aim to further discuss these issues and challenges during our next fact-finding visit to Turkey this spring,” concluded the co-rapporteurs.