Turkey: EMHRN Executive Committee Member and 71 Human Rights Defenders To face Turkish Heavy Penal Court for fourth hearing

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network’s Executive Committee Member Osman İşçi, together with 71 other union members, face their fourth hearing before the 13th Heavy Penal Court of Ankara, on 5 March 2014.

The trial has been ongoing since 10 April 2013, following Turkish anti-terror procedures which are in clear violation of the right to a fair trial. M. Osman İşçi and the other defendants are peaceful human rights and trade union activists, who are being accused of “membership in an illegal organisation” in sanction to their peaceful criticism of Turkish governmental policies.

On 25 June 2012, “anti-terror” police forces detained Osman İşçi and 71 members of trade unions affiliated to the confederation ‘KESK’. Among them, 28 persons including M. İşçi, were maintained in pre-trial detention in high security prisons for 8 to 10 months[1]. The defendants and their lawyers were not informed about the charges brought against them until 15 February 2013, as files were kept secret according to Turkish Anti-Terror Law. Such a long privation of liberty without public charges is a clear violation of international obligations that bind Turkey[2].

While Osman İşçi and the other trade unionists were released during the first hearing on 10 April 2013, in its judgment, the Ankara Special Court maintained the charges against the 72 defendants of the case.

The Court won’t take any substantial decision on 5 March since 14 defendants have yet to make their statements. However, the fourth hearing should be watched closely by independent observers to make sure the procedural rights of the defendants are respected. The European Court of Human Rights systematically condemns Turkey due to the lack of guarantees offered by its judicial system to the defendants.  In the Observation Trial Report of the first two hearings, the EMHRN highlights blatant violations of international fair trial standards and raises serious concern regarding the independence and impartiality of judges.

Therefore, the EMHRN:

–          Welcomes the EU delegation and several EU Member States’ initiative of sending observers to past hearings, calls on them to mobilise again for this new hearing and to keep a close eye on the developments of this highly political trial, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders;

–          Calls on the EU to monitor in all circumstances the respect by Turkish authorities of international and regional human rights instruments;

The EMHRN calls on the Turkish authorities to:

–          Put an end to the politically motivated prosecutions against Osman İşçi and the 71 other defendants;

–          In general, stop judicial harassment and the arbitrary use of the Anti-Terror Law against peaceful opponents and human rights defenders, in particular pro-Kurdish activists

–          Respect its international human rights obligations, and in particular, guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

[1] 6 were released on 15 February 2013, while 22 stayed in jail up to their trial.

[2] Article 6 para. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights : “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:  a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him”