The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing judicial harassment against environmental and human rights defender Ms Füsun Ergün, aka Füsun Kayra. Ms Ergün is the spokesperson of Ekoloji Birliği (Ecology Unity/Union) Women’s Assembly, and is involved in Kazdağları Ecology Platform and Kazdağları Sisterhood. She is also a member of the Marmara Region Solidarity and Coordination Group, under the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey - HRFT (Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı – TİHV) human rights defenders project.
On March 27, 2023, at 14.00, the Milas 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance is expected to hand down its verdict against Füsun Ergün in what will be the sixth hearing in her trial. Ms Ergün faces criminal proceedings on the charge of "prevention of public duty" (Article 265 of the Penal Code of Turkey) for her participation in the İkizköy Akbelen Resistance, a series of peaceful protests aiming to protect Akbelen Forest in İkizköy Neighborhood located in Muğla, south-west of Turkey, from mining operations. If convicted, Füsun Ergün could face up to four years in prison.
İkizköy Akbelen Resistance started in October 2019, when residents of Muğla İkizköy started protests to protect the Akbelen Forest from mining companies, which are planning on destroying it in order to expand the lignite mining site that fuels the Yeniköy-Kemerköy thermal power stations. These protests turned into a continuous ongoing vigil on July 17, 2021, when teams affiliated with the General Directorate of Forestry entered the Akbelen Forest to start operations and cut down trees. Residents of İkizköy carried out a nationwide campaign and filed administrative objections in 2019 and 2020, which resulted in two separate stay of execution orders. The first one was issued by the Muğla 1st Administrative Court for the cutting down of trees and the second one by the Muğla 3rd Administrative Court for the annulment of the permission to carry out the mining site operations. Despite those orders, mining companies and gendarmerie forces continue to prevent the protests until today. The mining companies threatened the residents with dismissal from their jobs and cut off their access to water for ten days in 2019. The gendarmerie intervened in the protests and exercised extra-judicial use of force several times.
On August 11, 2021, approximately 250 gendarmerie officers raided the area and forcibly removed 11 peaceful protestors from the Akbelen Forest. Füsun Ergün, who had tied herself to a tree, was violently detained by the gendarmerie forces and taken into custody for one day, before being charged with "prevention of public duty". The two-page-long indictment alleges that while being taken out of the protest area, Füsun Ergün prevented gendarmerie forces from carrying out their public duty.
Since she was charged, the Milas 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance has hold five hearings in the case of Füsun Ergün. During the second hearing, the presenting judge and the public prosecutor overtly violated Ms Ergün’s right to due process and legally established criminal procedures. The judge ordered Füsun Ergün to stand still and not to sit down, and argued with her attorneys, who were in turn threatened by the public prosecutor. In the same hearing, the public prosecutor submitted his final opinion for the conviction of Füsun Ergün. The attorneys requested a recusation of the judges and İzmir Bar Association submitted a complaint to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, which was still pending at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. The following three hearings were postponed due to the ongoing evaluation of the recusation, which the court eventually overruled.
The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Füsun Ergün, which seems to be only aimed at preventing her from exercising her legitimate environmental and human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the authorities in Turkey to put an immediate end to the judicial harassment against Füsun Ergün and all human and environmental rights defenders in the country, and to guarantee her rights to due process and fair trial. The Observatory further urges the authorities to ensure that Füsun Ergün and all environmental and human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Füsun Ergün as well as all environmental and human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level – against Füsun Ergün and all other environmental and human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iii. Guarantee Füsun Ergün’s rights to due process and fair trial during all the proceedings against her.
• President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. Email: email@example.com.
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
• Ambassador Mr. Faruk Kaymakçı, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
• Ambassador Mr. Sedat Önal, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org