Terrorist Human Rights Defenders

On June 5th12 human rights workers were detained while they were “holding a secret meeting” in Buyukada, Istanbul, which includes Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser. Many individuals and organizations asked for their release, yet as of June 13, they still are under detention. According to T24, a Turkish news website, the detainees were accused of terrorism.

This, apparently, is news for many outsiders. But for us, opponents of the current Turkish government who are politically active, there is no news here. I want to show you two legal bases and the basic approach in the state, on how these people are kept under detention, and highly likely they will remain there at least for some months, if not years.

Turkish Anti-Terror Law

According to the second article of Turkish anti-terror law (ATL, #3713), the following are considered terrorists:

  • Those who belong to the terrorist group or organization, and commit crimes either by themselves or with others,
  • Those who belong to the terrorist group or organization, even if they did not commit crimes,
  • Those that do not belong to a terrorist group or organization, yet committed a crime for the sake of a terrorist group or organization.

How can one commit a crime for the sake of a terrorist group, if she is not a member of it? Just like you, I do not have an answer. But thanks to this article, many people are taken under arrest, detained, and convicted of terrorism. These 12 people are just 12 of them. This law exists for more than two decades, and is used against “criminals of thought and conscience” since its implementation.

Culture > The Laws and Morality

In May 2016, following a Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriyet, sharing one edition of French magazine Charlie Hebdo after the attacks, two of the columnists were sentenced to two years in prison. In the reasoned decision, the following is argued for by the courtJudges do not reach a verdict based on only the laws and conscience [i.e. morality]. The reason of this, according to the court and shortly, is that there is the culture of Turkish society, and the culture should be taken into account as well.

I think I do not need to comment much, except mentioning two very obvious problems:

  1. If the laws and morality does not matter, and if the judge can convict me of anything as she likes, why do we have a judicial system?
  2. If the culture is obviously against laws and morality, how in this clash, culture will have an upper hand in the courtroom?

Books vs Bombs

In 2011, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the law that I mentioned about above, Erdogan, who was the PM back then, compared bombs to books in Strasbourg. In his speech, he said the following:

“It was not me who gave the decision for the seizure of that reportedly unpublished book. It is a crime to use a bomb and to use the components a bomb is made of. Are the police not going to step in if they receive the information about the construction of a bomb? So if there was according information, the judiciary gave the decision and told the police to go and take it.”


As you can see, the flow of logic is pretty simple:

  1. Erdogan is our leader, and we try to please him whichever way we can.
  2. If for him a book is like/equal to a bomb, it is okay, as
  3. The judges can leave aside the laws and morality. This would not create any problems as long as
  4. One is accused of heavy crimes, and especially terrorism. We favor terrorism, because
  5. According to the law, anyone can be labelled a terrorist. This heavy accusation is useful to strengthen our hands against internal opposition and international community, as we tell that we fight against terrorism. Also it is useful to silence internal opposition because
  6. Rather than the public prosecutor proving the accused guilty, she should prove herself not guilty – which is practically impossible and gives all the power to the government and the judicial system.

We can conclude, then, whatever is going on is a classic, is so banal and normal for the opponents in Turkey. I wish innocent people’s immediate release, but excluding those that receive strong political support, either within or outside the country, no one is released just because they are innocent. So let us wait and see what will be their share from this oppressive regime.

(This post was previously shared at WordPress)

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