Sentencing of Eren Keskin: another blow against freedom of expression in Turkey

Justice and the Rule of Law, Statement, Turkey

Read in:  French 

Brussels 28 May 2019

   Turkish version here

On 21 May, at the final hearing of the Özgür Gündem “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign trial, woman human rights defender and co-chair of the Human Rights Association-Insan Hakları Dernerği (IHD), Eren Keskin, was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months prison term for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “openly inciting to commit crime”.

As deeply concerning as this sentencing is, it is far from an isolated case: across Turkey, civil society activists struggling to ensure basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are targeted by the judiciary, acting as an extension of the legislative power, for legitimately and peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. EuroMed Rights strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Ms Keskin and her fellow activists.

Ms Keskin, who is also a prominent lawyer and founder of the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody, has frequently spoken out against violence against women and discrimination against minorities. Throughout her many years of human rights work she has been targeted by pro-government media and faced threats and physical attacks.

In 2016, in the context of a worsening situation for human rights defenders in the country, she acted in solidarity to the now-closed daily Özgür Gündem. Due to her solidarity, she faces a total of 129 trials for briefly assuming the post of co-editor-in-chief of the shuttered newspaper. Her sentencing is part of a broader repression of basic human rights and freedoms in Turkey which is curbing the space for any dissenting voice.

Despite the lift of the State of Emergency last July, the repression of the civil society in Turkey continues unabated, affecting the whole civil society, in a context of flagrant abuse of judicial power exploited to mute the human rights community in the country.

EuroMed Rights calls on the Turkish authorities to respect their obligations under international human rights treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish constitution, end the crackdown on critics and halt the persecution of human rights defenders. and release all those detained for peacefully expressing their opinions.

Note to the editor:

The Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily had begun on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. Daily was closed through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency.

At the end of March, Ms. Keskin has been sentenced to 7 years and a half on charges of “insulting the President and State institutions” over three reports published in the newspaper in 2015. On the next 3 July, she will again stand trial in front of 23th High Criminal Court in Istanbul for the “ Özgür Gündem main trial”.