Trial Calendar

January 2020

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  • Özgür Gündem Ana Davası (Eren Keskin)
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  • Gezi Davası / Gezi Trial
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Dr. Serdar Küni, is a physician and a human rights defender from Cizre who served as a referral physician for the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Cizre Reference Center and as the President of Şırnak Medical Association. He was detained and arrested on October 19, 2016 following an accusation that he had medically treated “organization” members wounded, knowing that they were members to an organization, during the 2016 security forces operations in Cizre. He was tried for “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly”. The court, on the second hearing on April 24, 2017, sentenced Küni with a 4 year and 2 months prison term but the decision was reversed, and he was released. 

A graduate of Dicle University Department of Medicine, Dr. Serdar Küni was born in 1972. He is among the founders of Şırnak Medical Association. He worked at Cizre State Hospital Emergency Department and community health centers, as well as Bişeng Health Center, an initiative of the Municipality of Cizre with a goal to bring accessible, free and equitable health services to public. This center was closed de facto with the curfew imposed, and formally after the government appointed a trustee to the municipality. Küni was active in starting the TİHV Cizre Reference Center in 2015.

He was detained and arrested on October 19, 2016, and transferred to Urfa T-Type Prison on December 24. In two different indictments under his name, he was accused of “medically treating wounded members of the organization during the curfews in Cizre”. Statements of an anonymous witness, codename “Vatan”, and others who claimed to be in Cizre during that period were included in the indictments as the grounds of these accusations. 

The first hearing was held on March 13, 2017. Witnesses who testified against Küni, stated that their statements were taken under torture and against their consent. They stated that they did not know who Dr. Küni were and that they would like to withdraw their testimonies. 

Anonymous witness “Vatan”, in their testimony, stated that “protesters wounded were treated at the health center where Küni worked”. The only accusation against Küni was concerned with him practicing medicine. On the other hand, the community health center in question was closed on that day. 

Küni who testified before the court stated that “I have been practicing medicine in Cizre for 12 years. I have fought to provide free health care of quality to public during these 12 years. I have not taken any sides. I always acted ethical in my practice. I did not discriminate anyone based on ethnicity, gender or political stance. I tried to treat my patients regardless of their participation in social movements. I respected their confidentiality. I have provided medical care to torture and ill-treatment survivors.” 

The second hearing was held on April 24, 2017. Observers from Turkey and international human rights organizations were present at the hearing. The court, sentenced Küni with a 4 year and 2 months prison term but the decision was reversed, and he was released. 

Following the appeal procedures, Serdar Küni is being tried once again at Şırnak 2nd High Criminal Court. The hearing will be held on February 19, 2020. 

Journalist-author and human rights defender Nurcan Baysal has been arrested and under investigation; and her house was raided many times. As a consequence of publishing her temoignage of the military operations in Cizre, dating 2016, she was sentenced to a 10-month prison term in 2018. Her sentence was adjourned with her conditional release for 5 years. 

Nurcan Baysal was born in 1975 in Diyarbakır; she is a graduate of Ankara University Political Science Department. She received her masters’ degree on International Relations from Bilkent University and worked as an instructor there.

Between the years 1997-2007, she worked as a project coordinator for the GAP Entrepreneur Support Centers Project (GIDEM) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She is among the founding members of the Development Center Association (Kalkınma Derneği Merkezi) in Diyarbakır, founded in 2004; and was the president of the board of directors. She mainly focused on forced migration and rural development. She is also among the founding members of the Women’s Labor and Employment Initiative Platform (KEIG) and Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DISA). Baysal is also a member of the Platform to Save Women Kidnapped by ISIS, founded in Diyarbakır in 2015, to rescue and stand in solidarity with the women kidnapped by the ISIS.

Her published pieces on national and international media outlets focus on Kurds, development and poverty. She is also the author of  “O Gün“(That Day), “O Sesler” (Those Voices), “Kürdistan’da Sivil Toplum” (Civil Society in Kurdistan, co-authored with Şeyhmus Diken), and “Ezidiler: 73. Ferman“(Ezidis: 73rd Verdict).

In 2016, Nurcan Baysal took part in Özgür Gündem (newspaper) “Chief Editor on Duty Campaign”, which resulted in an investigation on the allegation that she was making “propaganda for a terrorist organization”. This investigation was dropped for the lack of grounds for legal action.  

Following the operations in Cizre, Baysal penned an article on the state of the houses used by the special forces of the police. The lawsuit concerning this article ended up sentencing her to a one-year prison term on February 20, 2018 for “publicly degrading the security organizations”. The decision was first reduced to 10 months on the basis of good standing of the defendant, along with her case history and social relations. Then, it was adjourned for 5 years under supervision on the basis that she has no previous criminal record. 

The title of her op-ed concrerning her temoignage in Cizre in 2016 was Cizre’deki evlerin içinden: ‘Kızlar biz geldik siz yoktunuz’ yazıları, yerlerde sergilenen kadın çamaşırları!” (“From inside of the houses in Cizre: ‘Girls, we came here when you were not [here]’ graffiti and the underwear on display!”. Access to this op-ed was barred by the Ankara 6th Criminal Court of Peace Judge Ali Ramazan Bilgisiçok.

In her defense, Baysal stated that “I stand behind my statement in Diyarbakır. The prosecutor should have initiated an investigation from having read the content of my writing. I worked as a journalist in the region and made news of the inhumane things I have witnessed. I went to the apartment in question with a delegation from the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (Mazlum-DER) and the Human Rights Foundation.”

Nurcan Baysal was among the thirty people arrested in Diyarbakır on January 22, 2018 under the investigation pertaining to social media posts on Afrin military operation. After formalities at the police station, she was transferred to Criminal Court of Peace by the prosecutor for the following crimes: “making propaganda for an organization” and “provoking the public to hatred, hostility or degrading“. Court conditionally released Baysal on judicial control, nevertheless a legal case against her opened for seven posts on Twitter. Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance concluded that she should be acquitted on April 18, 2019.

In June 2019, Baysal was arrested with the accusation of her “membership to a terrorist organization“, then released after providing her statement. Questions she had to answer in her statement were mostly related to Diyarbakir Political and Social Research Institute (DISA); and the information gathered from her email exchanges and phone tapped between the years 2010-2012, relating to the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).

Her house in Diyarbakır was raided by the police on October 29, 2019, while she was abroad, following her posts on social media.

Nurcan Baysal received the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) “Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life” in 2010 and the Italian Women Journalists Association “Brave Women Journalists Award” in 2017. She received Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk in May 2018 and became a member of English PEN on December 19, 2019. 

The former president of the Türk Tabipleri Birliği (TTB- Turkish Medical Association) Central Council Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel, and 10 colleagues who are also members of the Council, were accused of and tried for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading”, and were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months of imprisonment on May 3, 2019. The indictment was based on a TTB statement regarding the “Olive Branch” military operation to Afrin, which read “War is a public health problem” and another World Peace Day statement dating September 1, 2016. Tükel is also one of the academics who signed the Academics for Peace declaration. 

Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel was born in 1959 in Nazilli district of Aydın province. He graduated from Ege University Faculty of Medicine in 1983. He specialized in psychiatry at the Psychiatry Department at Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine. He became professor in 2000. 

He was one of the strongest candidates for Istanbul University rectorship elections in 2015. He received 1202 votes, which made him win the preliminary elections. His name was written second place in the list presented to the President by the Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK – Board of Higher Education). Although Tükel was voted in the position, Mahmut Ak, who came second place in the elections, was appointed.

The appointment was protested by the employees and students of the university in front of the main building on campus. Close to 15 thousand people in academia signed a petition demanding the appointment of Raşit Tükel. 

Tükel served on the TTB Central Council as the vice president during the 2014-2016 term; and as the president during the 2016-2018 term. TTB is an independent profession-based civil society organization that receives no funds from the government.  80% of the physicians in Turkey are members of TTB. Among its founding objectives are protecting, improving the health of peoples of Turkey, making health services more accessible and affordable; and upholding principles of medical ethics in Turkey, 

Prof. Dr. Raşit Tükel is also being tried at 34th Criminal Court for having signed “We will not be a party to this crime” declaration as a member of the Academics for Peace, accused of “making terrorist organization propaganda”. He refused accusations against him and stated: “My signature is a manifestation of my desire that, in our country, people are able to live in peace, in humane and healthy conditions, not fearing for their lives. That the justice system allows for this, the Kurdish problem is solved in a peaceful manner, and the state is able to protect the right to live peacefully… These clashes and the conflict have indirect consequences on individuals’ health and public health by interrupting services, destroying the environment, forcibly displacing people, allowing for human rights violations, increasing violence and violent events, which fall under our interest and area of work as physicians.”

He was arrested on January 30, 2018 with ten other physicians who are also members of TTB Central Council after their “War is a public health problem” statement to counter the war in Afrin, where Turkish Armed Forces intervened in northwest Syria under the operation “Olive Branch”. Police raided TTB Headquarters. Raşit Tükel was released upon the condition of judiciary control on February 5, 2018. While in detention, Istanbul University Rector Mahmut Ak suspended Tükel for three months. 

The decision hearing of the lawsuit against the 11 physicians was held on May 3, 2019 at Ankara 32nd Criminal Court. The board of judges convicted Hande Arpat for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading” and “Making Propaganda for an Organization”. She was sentenced to 3 years 3 months and 22 days of imprisonment. The remaining 10 physicians including Raşit Tükel were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months of imprisonment, each, for “Provoking the Public to Hatred, Hostility or Degrading”. Their demand to defer the announcement of the verdict was rejected; thus, the physicians’ sentences were not reprieved. 

11 convicted TTB Central Council member physicians: Mehmet Raşit Tükel, Sinan Adıyaman, Ayfer Horasan, Bülent Nazım Yılmaz, Dursun Yaşar Ulutaş, Funda Barlık Obuz, Hande Arpat, Mehmet Sezai Berber, Mustafa Tamer Gören, Selma Göngür, Şeyhmuz Gökalp.

 

Bülent Şık, a food engineer and an environment and human rights activist, was accused of “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” and was sentenced to a year and 3 months imprisonment.

Şık received his PhD on environment-friendly food analysis techniques, and between the years 1990-2009, he worked in various laboratories of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. In 2009, he left his post to work for Akdeniz University as a lecturer. He served as the deputy technical director of the Center for Food Security and Agricultural Research, at the same university. He focused on food security, residual analysis of toxic chemical substances and environment friendly applications of chemistry.  

He served on a five year long (2011-2016) Ministry of Health Project (Evaluating the Environmental Factors and Their Effects on Health in the Provinces of Kocaeli, Antalya, Tekirdağ, Edirne, Kırklareli). The project was investigating the possible correlation between the rising number of cancer cases in western Turkey and soil, air, water pollution. The results of this study revealed that the pollution levels found in food and water samples were of toxic levels. Pesticides, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon were found in many samples. In some residential areas, the water was found not safe for drinking due to high lead, aluminum, chrome and arsenic levels.

He was fired from his position with the presidential decree 677 in November 2016. He was working as an assistant professor at the university when he signed the Academics for Peace declaration.

He published the results of his research in Cumhuriyet (newspaper) in April 2018 since the Ministry of Health did not take any action regarding the toxicity found in Şık’s research samples. The title of the four-day article series was: Türkiye’yi kanser eden ürünleri devlet gizledi, biz açıklıyoruz! İşte zehir listesi” (The state hid the list of cancer-inducing products in Turkey, we are revealing the list!)

Once the articles were published, an investigation against Bülent Şık opened upon receiving the Ministry of Health’s complaint that relied on three main accusations: “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” (TCK 258); Securing Prohibited Information (TCK 334) and Disclosure of Prohibited Information (TCK 336)“.

The decision hearing was held on September 26, 2019 at Istanbul Court of Law 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Bülent Şık acquitted from the accusation of “Securing Prohibited Information“. He received a year and 3 months imprisonment due to “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” accusation. The sentence was not reprieved since the defendant did not report remorse in his statements. The decision will be finalized after a decision is reached at the court of appeal. 

 

Tahir Elçi was the chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association when he was killed on November 28, 2015, during a press statement in front of the Sheikh Matar Mosque in Sur, Diyarbakır. He was also a member of the Human Rights Association, Advisory Board to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) Human Rights Center, and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV). The assailants of and the arm used for his murder are still unknown.

Tahir Elçi was born in Cizre district of Şırnak in 1966. He graduated from Dicle University Law Faculty. During his term as an executive director of the Diyarbakır Bar Association between the years 1998-2006, he trained at the Academy of European Law in Germany on international criminal law and criminal justice. He was a speaker at numerous national and international conferences.

During the ‘90s, he represented victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances in detention, burning down of villages, and torture in detention, as well as conducting documentation of rights violations in Diyarbakır and its environs. He represented the families of Medeni Yıldırım, and the 12-year-old Nihat Kazanhan, who were killed by soldiers, in Lice and Cizre in Diyarbakir respectively. He had undertaken the legal cases of the killing of 38 people during March 1994 Turkish Armed Forces bombardment of Kuşkonar and Koçağılı villages of Şırnak and Roboski Massacre. He was instrumental in the ECHR lawsuit issuing one of its landmark decisions regarding the bombardment of the villages.

He was elected chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association in November 2012. On November 14, 2015, he was detained for six days for having made the following statement on TV: “PKK is not a terrorist organization. Although some of its activities could qualify as terrorism, it is a political movement. It is a movement with a broad-based support, making political demands.” His case was referred to court for arrest. He was released by the Bakırköy Second Criminal Court of Peace. His indictment had requested a seven-and-a-half-year imprisonment for “making terrorist organization propaganda”. Elçi was banned from leaving the country.

A month and half after this incident, the Four-Legged Minaret in Sur district, a symbol of Diyarbakır, was damaged on November 25, 2015 during the armed clashes that had been going on since September 2015 between the law enforcement forces and YDG-H members. Tahir Elçi held a press conference in front of the minaret to draw attention to this damage on November 28. His statement read: “Suriçi neighborhood has a history dating back to nine thousand years. There are city walls, mosques, churches and other historical artefacts in this area. We do not want arms, conflict or [military] operations on this ancient site that housed countless civilizations, on the common ground of humanity. Wars, arms, conflict and operations shall steer away from here.” He was killed in an armed clash in the moments following this statement.

Although the former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu publicly promised to conclude investigations as soon as possible, the procedures of collecting evidence were not respected, the guns of the police present on murder site were never subjected to a criminal investigation, and it was never determined whose gunshot killed Elçi. Public prosecutor of the investigation changed multiple times and no perpetrator or suspect had to testify over the course of four years.

Diyarbakır Bar Association requested a technical investigation from London-based Forensic Architecture in order to shed light on the details of Elçi’s murder and determine the assailants. Their report concluded that either of the three police officers present on site could have shot Elçi. These three officers are included as “witnesses” in the ongoing investigation file.

 

 

 

Diyarbakır Bar Association was founded in 1927. In parallel to the authoritarian tendencies of the period, the number of investigations and lawsuits against the bar association directors increase. They are targeted for their statements and the reports they draft. The former chair of the bar association Tahir Elçi was killed on November 28, 2015, during a press statement in front of the Sheikh Matar Mosque in Sur, Diyarbakır. There is a ongoing lawsuit against the Bar Association.

In the subsequent years to the murder of Elçi, the investigations concerning the complaints filed to the former Başbakanlık İletişim Merkezi (BİMER- Prime Ministry Communication Center) cover the activities of the bar association between the years 2016-2018, including the press statements and reports on the condition of human rights within the legal, political and social context of the period.
One of these investigations is over a declaration in 2017 titled “April 24 / Meds Yeghern: We share the unmitigated great sorrow of Armenian People”. On December 1, 2019 the Batman Heavy Penal Court has ruled that a lawsuit shall be filed against the former Chair and the executive board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association. They will be tried as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for “openly inciting the public to enmity and hatred and degrading the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM)“. Ministry of Justice gave permission for an investigation under the accusation that the Diyarbakır Bar Association has “publicly degraded Turkish nation, state and institutions” in the following incidents:

  • Their statement: “Punishing for pronouncing ‘Kurdistan’ is shameful”; regarding the sentence the former HDP MP Osman Baydemir received for his remarks at the parliament according to the Grand National Assembly Bylaws; and,
  • Their report on civilian deaths and injuries from attacks by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in Kanireş neighborhood, Oğul village in the province of Hakkari.

By the end of December 2019, court has ruled that a lawsuit shall be filed against the former Chair and the executive board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association also about these investigations.

Between the years 2016-2018 Diyarbakır Bar Association Chair Başkanı Ahmet Özmen and Board of Directors of the period Mahsum Batı, Nurşin Uysal, Cihan Ülsen, Sertaç Buluttekin, Neşet Girasun, Serhat Eren, İmran Gökdere, Velat Alan, Ahmet Dağ and Nahit Eren will stand trial.

The Bar Association was publicly targeted by the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. The bar association and its executive board was accused of “making propaganda on behalf of the organization” and “being the spokesperson of a terrorist organization” without any proof, witness or legal grounds.

In the meantime, Diyarbakır Bar Association was nominated for two important prizes for their efforts to protect human rights. They received the International Hrant Dink Prize in 2016 and the International Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Special Mention of the Jury in 2018.

Saturday Mothers/People came together for the first time on May 27, 1995. For the past 24 years, they are leading a struggle demanding to know the whereabouts of the enforced disappearances under custody, to put perpetrators on trial and stopping enforced disappearances.

It is estimated that 1,352 people disappeared while under custody since the September 12, 1980 military coup. The period in which most enforced disappearances took place between the years 1993-95 coincides with the creation of Saturday Mothers/People.
İnsan Hakları Derneği (İHD- Human Rights Association) started a campaign in 1992 with the slogan “The disappeared must be found“. This campaign turned into a vast demand for justice movement in 1995, with the momentum Saturday Mothers/People brought.
The first disappearance on the agenda of Saturday Mothers/People, who gather every Saturday at noon at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul for a peaceful sit-in, was Hasan Ocak. Hasan Ocak was arrested on March 21, 1995, following the Gazi Neighborhood attacks between March 12-15. After the relentless search his mother, Emine Ocak, and relatives for 55 days, Ocak’s body was found on May 15, 1995 at a cemetery for the nameless. He was severely tortured before being killed.
When Ocak was found, with the support of İHD campaign, the search quickly turned into a human rights struggle demanding justice for the disappeared. For the first sit-in staged on May 27, 1995, a group of 15-20 people gathered at Galatasaray Square.
The group announced their demands: “Disappearances under custody must stop, whereabouts of the disappeared must be known, perpetrators must be found and put on trial“. With time, the protest started to attract more and more people, sometimes close to thousands. Every week, they shared the story of a disappeared, and they demanded to know what happened to them. Starting in August of 1998, the police started to intervene these protests with batons and tear gas, and to arrest protesters. After a yearlong struggle with the police, on March 13, 1999, Saturday Mothers/People announced that they will be suspending the protests.
Their reunion had to wait for 10 years. They were once again at Galatasaray Square in January 31, 2009. Bandista (music band) released a song ‘Benim Annem Cumartesi’ (My Mother, Saturday) that year.
The United Nations “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance” was signed in 2007 and put into effect in 2010. Turkey is still not a party to this convention.
International Hrant Dink Prize in 2013 was awarded to Saturday Mothers/People.

Justified by the security risks following the Istanbul bomb attacks in 2015 and 2016, Saturday Mothers/People had to be encircled by a police cordon at the square. Protesters had to go through a security check before joining the sit-in.
There was a call for support for the 700th vigil on August 25, 2018. The group gathering in the morning of the 25th, met with a written ban to gather at the square, signed by the Beyoğlu District Governor. Saturday Mothers/People, İHD members and executives, and other supporters had to endure a police intervention with pressured water, plastic bullets and tear gas. 47 people were arrested, to be
released after 8 hours.
Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu accused Saturday Mothers/People of undertaking “efforts to legitimize terrorist organizations” and “being the spokesperson of terrorist organizations”, just a couple hours before the İHD İstanbul Office press statement on August 27, 2018.
The ban against Saturday Mothers/People continues since the 700th week. They were not allowed to stage sit-ins and Galatasaray Square was closed with police barricades. The group that wanted to march towards the square on the 701st week was stopped by the police. The sit-in was staged at Büyükparmakkapı Street. Since the 702nd week, Saturday Mothers/People meet in front of the İHD İstanbul Office. They have been denied access to Galatasaray Square since then.
PEN Duygu Asena Prize in 2019 was awarded to Saturday Mothers/People.

On trial

Middle East Technical University LGBTI+ Solidarity, since its foundation in 1996, has been promoting gender equality and fighting against LGBTI+phobia. Although LGBTI+ activities and events at METU campus have always faced varying levels of resistance, the Pride March organized by the METU LGBTI+ Solidarity has become a symbol of the city through the years. As the bans and administrative investigations regarding LGBTI+ themed events continue, 19 LGBTI+ rights defenders are standing trial for attending the 9th METU Pride March. 

Ankara Governorship has put a general ban on LGBTI+ events on November 18, 2017 until further notice, using “social sensitivities”, “public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and freedoms” as grounds for justification, and sustained it after the state of emergency was lifted in July 2018. This general ban was lifted only after Ankara Regional Administrative Court’s decision dating April 19, 2019

METU campus was affected by the bans during and in the succeeding  period to the state of emergency; nevertheless, the 9th Pride March was expected to take place on May 10, 2019. Although the regional court lifted the ban, the march was forbidden by the rectorate of the university. METU Rector Mustafa Verşan Kök announced the ban on the Pride March in an email to university students, faculty and alumni. 

Students gathered on campus on May 10 with the Regional Administrative Court Decision on their side that read “the ban has no date of termination, no clarifications on restrictions. It is necessary to protect these events rather than banning them”. They were met by the police, who were invited to the campus by the rectorate. 21 students, including members of METU LGBTI+ Solidarity and a faculty member were taken under custody. University administration started an administrative investigation process against students who were released from custody later that night; while Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office drafted an indictment against the 19 LGBTI+ rights defenders. 

In the indictment dating July 17, 2019, 19 rights defenders were accused of “participat[ing] in unlawful assembly or demonstrations” and “resist[ing] despite the warning or use of force” under Article 32/1 of Law 2911. The indictment was admitted on August 5, 2019 and the first hearing took place on November 12, 2019 at Ankara 39th Criminal Court of First Instance. 

The LGBTI+ rights defenders have been subjected to public smear campaigns, as the trial continues. Members of LGBTI+ Solidarity Community were pointed as targets in newspapers known for being allies to the government. In June 2019, some students lost their scholarships and loans from Kredi ve Yurtlar Kurumu (KYK – Institute for Student Loans and Housing) due to the trial they are facing. KYK asked students to pay their debts with the justification that they were taken under custody for participating in METU Pride March. 

Six students’ houses, including two members of METU LBGTI+ Solidartiy, were raided on June 30, 2019 before the graduation ceremony. Four students present at the houses at the time of the raids were taken under custody. They were released in the evening after they filed their statements. The two students who were not present at their houses filed their statements in the following days. Those under custody were interrogated on their sexual orientations and on whether they had plan to protest during the graduation ceremony. The ongoing investigation is confidential; therefore, there is no information on the content of the accusations made against the students. 

 

The inauguration of the airport took place on the planned date of October 29, 2018, on the 96th
anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. 61 workers and unionists protesting against
the unacceptable working conditions at the construction site of the airport have been on trial since
September 2018.
In the indictment filed and admitted by Gaziosmanpaşa 14th Criminal Court of First Instance, the
workers and unionists are accused of “prevention of performance”, “violation of the freedom to
work and labour”, “destruction of government property”, “participant[ing] to assemblies or
demonstrations carry[ing] arms, tools, instruments or substances specified in Article 23” and
“damage to property”. Security camera and video footage, along with WhatsApp messages, are used
as evidence to these allegations.
With a capital cost of 10,2 billion Euros, the Third Airport of Istanbul (Istanbul Airport) is the largest infrastructural project in the history of the republic and the most expensive in the world. According to
Cumhurbaşkanlığı İletişim Merkezi (Presidential Communication Center), at least 52 workers
lost their lives during the construction phase. The trial against the workers is about the protests that
are sparked by the unacceptable working conditions that caused the deaths of 52 workers.
First mass protest at the construction site of the Third Airport took place on September 12, 2018
following a traffic accident that injured 17 workers. Workers blocked the road and did not let service
vehicles pass on September 14, 2018, protesting against occupational murder, difficult working
conditions, nonpayment of salaries, lack of hygiene in the dormitories and the preparation of the
food. The protesters were met by teargas. Afterwards, representatives of the workers came together
with company executives. During this meeting, their 15-point demands were blatantly refused.
Workers saw this as “stalling” the protests.
The very night, the rooms of workers were raided. According to İnşaat-İş Sendikası (Construction
Workers Union), 543 workers were detained, only 401 of which were registered. The detained
workers could only speak to their lawyers on the third day. 43 of them were sent to the Prosecutor’s
Office, while others were released. 15 were released under judicial control. 28 were sent to court for
arrest, upon which 24 were arrested.
Among those arrested were İnşaat İşçileri Sendikası (Construction Workers Union) Press Officer Uğur
Karadaş, Mobilizing Agent Yunus Özgür and Executive Board Members Anıl Deniz Gider and Özkan
Özkanlı.
The number of arrested workers increased to 31 in the following days as the protests against the
working conditions continued and interventions intensified. Yapı İşçileri Sendikası (Revolutionary
Builder Laborers Union) Chair Özgür Karabulut, a constituent of Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları
Konfederasyonu (DİSK – Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions), was also arrested. Karabulut
was detained October 4 at DİSK headquarters at the same time as arrests were taking place at the
airport construction site.
31 workers and unionists, after 3 months of imprisonment, had their first hearing before a judge on
December 5, 2018 at Gaziosmanpaşa 14th Criminal Court of First Instance. Except for one worker, who could not be interrogated, 30 arrested workers were released under judicial control and banned
from leaving the country.
During the second hearing on March 20, 2019, the judicial control and the ban on leaving the country
for all workers, except for 3 who could not be interrogated, were lifted. The third hearing was held
on June 26. 61 workers and unionists’ * latest trial was on November 27, 2019. The next hearing will be on March 25, 2020.
Düşünce Suçu’na Karşı Girişim (Initiative Against Thought Crime) has prepared an extensive
report on the unlawful processes the workers have faced during this period. Click on the link to have
more information in Turkish language on the violations of rights of workers and unionists protected by the constitution
and laws.


* Abdurrahman Denli, Adem Mukyen, Ahmet Aras, Ahmet Faruk Şengül, Akif Altınışık, Anıl Deniz Gider, Bahtiyar Takan, Berhem Örnek, Bilal Özmen, Bilal Topcu, Birkan Topcu, Cihan Sarıbulak, Deniz Aslan, Diyar Bozkurt, Emin Irmak, Enver Asan, Esat Fırat, Fatih Mukan, Ferhat Çelik, Ferhat Uyar, Fuat Ögel, Gökhan Takan, Gürgün Işık, Hacı Volkan Oflaz, Hasan Çetin, Hüseyin Çetin, İbrahim Kençü, İlker Kurt, İsmail Faydalgel, Mazlum Kaya, Mehmet Keleş, Mehmet Ali İnan, Mehmet Celal Demir, Mehmet Nuri Soyalp, Mehmet Refik Şimşek, Muhammet Yiğen, Murat Altuntaş, Murat Nozoğlu, Musa Başkan, Musa Karakuş, Mustafa Atay, Mustafa Öktem, Mustafa Soyalp, Nedim Erdem, Osman Atku, Osman Üney, Ömer Eren, Özgür Karabulut, Özkan Özkanlı, Ramazan Gözel, Reşit Çelik, Rıdvan Günül, Sedat Elmas, Selami Saribuğa, Serhat Bilici, Servet Gözel, Teyip Kırğın, Uğur Karadaş, Yunus Özgür, Yusuf Asan, Yusuf Yılmaz.

Öztürk Türkdoğan is a lawyer and the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD). His work has made him a prominent figure in the human rights movement in Turkey. He was the Mediterranean regional representative of the “Wise People Delegation,” which was formed in 2013 to negotiate a resolution of the Kurdish issue.  He documented human rights violations once the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish military re-erupted in 2015. In this documentation, he mainly focused on cities in southeast Turkey that had 24-hour curfews. Türkdoğan has been and continues to be subject of various investigations for the work he conducts on behalf of the İHD.

In April 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan referred to rights defenders who prepared reports on cities that had a curfew, stating that: “Those, who published these reports should be scrutinized.” After this statement, investigations against the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), MAZLUMDER, the Trade Union of Employees in Public Health and Social Services (SES), and İHD started. Türkdoğan and other executives of these rights organisations were accused of insulting the State and its institutions. Türkdoğan’s investigation on this matter is still ongoing.

Türkdoğan is also among the 44 İHD members and executives who are being investigated on grounds of organising visits and meetings for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and for peace efforts to solve the Kurdish issue. The İHD staff is also subject of an investigation on grounds of “denigrating the State and its institutions” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” in its reports and statements. Türkdoğan gave his statement to the prosecutor on 15 March 2018 and submitted a detailed written statement in April 2018.

On 9 November 2017, Türkdoğan was detained together with İHD board members Sevim Salihoğlu and Derya Uysal, and İHD employee Besra Varlı. This day marked the 365th day of a sit-in led by Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça—teachers who were dismissed by an executive decree during the state of emergency that started in July 2016. The teachers protested their dismissal and demanded to be re-employed. Eventually, they were banned from protesting around the Human Rights Monument in Ankara. Türkdoğan and two colleagues were taken into custody for announcing the report they prepared on this ban. Each was fined 277 Turkish Liras. Türkoğlu and others lodged individual applications to the Constitutional Court on this matter.

Throughout his career, Türkdoğan has intervened in many court cases. This includes a court case against the military junta of the 1980 coup and many other court cases concerning rights violations in Turkey. He has faced media backlash for supporting a peaceful solution of the Kurdish issue.

Known for its support of the government, the Yeni Şafak daily newspaper targeted Türkdoğan on 7 December 2018 for participating in the “Kurdish Conference” held at the European Parliament. İHD has launched a legal battle against the newspaper in which it requested blocking access to the content of the article and compensation for the damage the article has caused.

Türkdoğan is a rights defender at risk in Turkey. He is still subject to investigations and is facing the risk of imprisonment in his trials.

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