On Wednesday evening, after a twelve-hour plus hearing, the Turkish judge ruled that two human rights trainers and six human rights activists belonging to the so-called Istanbul 10* may await their trial in freedom.
Hivos is relieved that the trainers Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner and the others can return home to their families after a detention period of almost four months.
“For all those involved, this is an enormous relief. A team of family, friends, lawyers and co-workers concentrated all their time and efforts on this case for 113 days. It is incredible that they have now been released. Nonetheless, we are still worried about the further course of the proceedings and the overall human rights situation in Turkey”, says Hivos’ Executive Director in reaction to the news.
Gharavi, Steudtner and the eight human rights activists, among whom the director of Amnesty International Turkey Idil Eser, were arrested on July 5 on an island close to Istanbul during a Hivos-financed routine training for cyber security and information management. The human rights defenders all carry the Turkish nationality. The two trainers are from Sweden and Germany respectively.
The ‘Istanbul 10’ were imprisoned in Turkey for almost four months. First they had to spend two weeks in detention until they were officially charged for aiding a terrorist group without being a member. Amnesty and Hivos proclaimed this charge as being absurd. To our dismay, the Turkish prosecutor announced a few weeks ago that he demanded a 15-year prison sentence. “For the past twenty years, I have dedicated my work to human rights, non-violence and peace-building”, Steudtner declared yesterday during the trial.
The case took an unexpected turn yesterday evening, when the same prosecutor pleaded for release from prison, pending the outcome of their trial. “Yet, they can still be convicted”, comments Huizing.
Hivos has repeatedly requested for immediate and unconditional release. In addition, Hivos requested the Dutch, Swedish and German authorities to do everything in their power to speed up the release of the imprisoned ‘Istanbul 10’. “It is incomprehensible to us that the charge has not been dismissed by the judge.”
*It concerns Idil Eser (Amnesty International), five other human rights defenders, namely İlknur Üstün (Women's Coalition), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nalan Erkem,(Citizens Assembly), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association) and the two trainers Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi.
Nejat Taştan (Equal Rights Watch Association) and Şeyhmuz Özbekli (lawyer) were released on bail earlier. Taner Kilic, president of Amnesty Turkey is still detained in prison in Turkey.