Turkey: Developments in the trial against human rights lawyer Levent Pişkin

19/05/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 007 / 1116 / OBS 097.3

Judicial harassment
Turkey
May 19, 2017

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by its trial observers about yesterday’s developments in the trial against Mr. Levent Pişkin, a human rights lawyer belonging to the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Ozgurlukcu Hukukcular Dernegi – OHD), a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexed (LGBTI) rights activist, and a member of the Justice Commission of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) [1].

According to the information received, during the May-18 hearing which was monitored by an Observatory trial observation mission, the Heavy Penal Court in Bursa heard the case against Mr. Levent Pişkin on charges of “undermining the image of Turkey” and “support to a terrorist group” (Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law – ATL and Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code). The defendant is criminalised for fulfilling his duties as an attorney, in particular for being part of the lawyers team of HDP co-chair Mr.Selahattin Demirtaş (see background information).

During the May-18 hearing, the accusation upheld the argument of the investigators, who had considered during the pre-trial stage that a meeting between Mr. Demirtaş’ lawyers, where they had decided to share the costs of their dinner, was amounting to “financial support to terrorism”.

The accusation went on alleging that interviews given by Mr. Pişkin to international media, notably Der Spiegel, had contributed to “undermining the image of Turkey”.

In turn, Mr. Levent Pişkin’s lawyers demonstrated that the investigations against the defendant violated the principles of the due process and rule of law, in particular in terms of fairness and impartiality, relying on provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and on relevant case-law from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Several activists were present in the courtroom in a sign of support to Mr. Pişkin.

The next hearing was set for November 30, 2017. Mr. Pişkin remains free but under judicial supervision.

The Observatory deplores the continuing judicial harassment against Mr. Levent Pişkin, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities as an attorney. The Observatory urges the Turkish authorities to drop all the charges against Mr. Levent Pişkin and to put an end to any kind of harassment against him.

Background information:

On November 14, 2016, at 5:30 a.m. the police raided in Mr. Levent Pişkin’s apartment, confiscated some of his belongings, including his computer and phone, and arrested him. [2] The Public Prosecution Office ordered his placement in custody and he was transferred to Bursa Detention Centre.

The arrest would be related to his visit to his client, Member of Parliament, Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP co-Chair, detained since November 4, 2016. Some media accused him of conveying Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş’s message to a German Magazine which could be used as propaganda.

At the day of his arrest, he was supposed to defend 46 lawyers, facing judicial harassment since 2011 for exercising their profession.

In April 2017, almost six months after his arrest, Mr. Levent Pişkin was charged for fulfilling his duties as an attorney.The Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor Gökhan Şen indeed accused Mr. Pişkin of “using his attorney ID to visit his client Selahattin Demirtaş, who is currently jailed in Edirne Penitentiary, and accepting [his fellow attorney Cahit] Kırkazak’s proposal to deliver a message from Mr. Demirtaş to the German magazine Der Spiegel, in order to bring the arrest of Mr. Demirtaş to the international agenda and into lobbying efforts on the international stage”.

Specifically, the prosecution claimed that many stories published in Der Spiegel “contain insults to the Turkish state and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spread unfounded news that insults, teases and belittles the country, and pursues an editorial policy that stokes public opinion against the country in order to discredit the nation on the international stage”.

The indictment further referred to Mr. Levent Pişkin’s phone call with fellow attorney Cahit Kırkazak, who was taken into custody in the same investigation as him, as a “phone communication within the organisational hierarchy”, and Mr. Pişkin’s membership in a WhatsApp group named “HDPIstanbul” was also included in his list of crimes.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Levent Pişkin as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at judicial level, against Mr. Levent Pişkin, as well as other human rights defenders in Turkey, and in particular lawyers,since it only seems to aim at sanctioning their legitimate human rights work;

iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

· President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi 06560 Beştepe-Ankara, Tel: (+90 312) 525 55 55, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31, E-mail: contact@tccb.gov.tr
· Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu tel: (0312) 422 10 00 ; Fax: +90 (312) 403 62 82
· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, No: 8 Balgat / Ankara - Turkey 06100; Tel : +90 (312) 292 10 00
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ, 06659 Kizilay, Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 417 77 70; Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail: info@adalet.gov.tr
· Minister of Interior, Mr. Efkan Ala; tel: +90 (312) 422 40 00;Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30;Email: ozelkalem@icisleri.gov.tr
· Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
· Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28B 1211 Geneva 19, Tel: +41 22 918 50 80; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59; Email: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Turkey in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, May 19, 2017

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 FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this partnership is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT 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:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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