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25.03.22
Urgent Interventions

Turkey: Sentencing of human rights defender Fırat Akdeniz

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 001 / 0322 / OBS 021
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment
Turkey
March 25, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing of Mr. Fırat Akdeniz, member of the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD), Diyarbakır Branch, as well as member of the Education and Science Workers’ Union. Mr. Akdeniz is a prominent human rights defender advocating to stop, investigate, prevent and seek justice for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Turkey.

On March 23, 2022, Fırat Akdeniz appeared before the Diyarbakır 11th Heavy Penal Court for the final hearing in his case. He was sentenced to six years and three months of imprisonment on the charge of “membership to an illegal armed organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Criminal Code of Turkey). Mr. Akdeniz’s lawyers will appeal this decision. Fırat Akdeniz has been imposed a travel ban that will be in force until the judgement is final.

Mr. Akdeniz was arbitrarily arrested on May 24, 2021, following a search conducted at his house on the same day, in which an alleged banned publication was seized. On May 26, 2021, the Diyarbakır 4th Peace Criminal Judgeship ordered his pre-trial detention on the charge of “membership to an illegal armed organisation”. On June 17, 2021, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office formally indicted Mr. Akdeniz. The indictment is based on Mr. Akdeniz’s participation in 17 different public gatherings from October 2019 to December 2020. These public gatherings span from a World Peace Day, a Kurdish language festival and demonstrations against gender-based violence and arbitrary detentions of attorneys and arbitrary removals of local elected officials. The Public Prosecutor’s Office alleges that those public gatherings praised and defended the activities and principles of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On September 3, 2021, during the first hearing in Mr. Akdeniz’s case before the Diyarbakır 11th Heavy Penal Court, an anonymous witness statement was taken to corroborate the above-mentioned allegations. On September 8, 2021, following the second hearing, Mr. Akdeniz was provisionally released pending the final verdict in his case.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the judicial harassment of Fırat Akdeniz and highlights that his targeting is part of a broader trend of criminalisation of human rights defenders in Turkey, including İHD members. The organisation and its members have been subjected to judicial harassment and intimidations by the authorities for years because of their peaceful human rights activities and exercise of freedom of expression and association, including the sentencing of Ms. Eren Keskin, Co-Chairperson of İHD, the threats and acts of stigmatisation against the organisation, as well as the three criminal proceedings İHD’s Co-Chairperson Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan is facing.

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing of Fırat Akdeniz and urges the authorities of Turkey to quash his conviction and put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Fırat Akdeniz, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Quash the conviction against Fırat Akdeniz and put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights lawyers and defenders in Turkey, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee Fırat Akdeniz’s rights to due process and fair trial during the judicial proceedings in his case.

Addresses:

  • Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 25, 2022

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
  • Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18
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