Trial of human rights defenders adjourned until 16 July

21 March 2019

Istanbul - Seventh hearing of the trial where 11 human rights defenders face terror related charges for attending a meeting on “digital security of human rights activists” in Istanbul, Buyukada was held at Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court. The trial is adjourned until 16 July for the prosecutor to prepare their opinion as to the accusations.

The hearing began at 9:54 AM. Defendants Günal Kurşun from Human Rights Agenda Association, İlknur Üstün from the Woman Coalition, Nalan Erkem from Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and Amnesty Turkey’s Chairman Taner Kılıç, and their lawyers were present in the courtroom.

Among those who monitored the trial for solidarity were directors of Amnesty Norway, Germany, Finland, and the UK, as well as representatives from the consulates of UK and Norway.

Kurşun is acquitted from a different case

The presiding judge stated that the expert report on digital materials was added to the file between hearings.

The prosecutor noted that he has nothing to say about the new documents and requested additional time to prepare the opinion as to the accusations. Some defense lawyers stated that they would present their statements in response to the digital material report after the prosecutor’s opinion.

Günal Kurşun’s lawyer said, “A lawsuit was filed against my client due to an aspersion. She was charged with ‘membership in FETÖ/PDY (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure)’ and ‘terrorist propaganda.’ But Adana 13th High Criminal Court recently acquitted my client in this case” and presented the relevant document to the court.  

İdil Eser sent her statement in writing

İdil Eser, who is tried without detention, was not present in the courtroom but her lawyer Erdal Doğan read her defense statement out loud:

“My computer which the police confiscated at my house had many e-books and audiobooks on it. Since I couldn’t fit my library into any house, I began collecting e-books and audiobooks. As an hopeless hoarder, I began collecting books this way, thinking that I’d have the chance to read them later and satiated my desire to buy books. 99% of these books were English. I downloaded them from torrent websites before downloading books from the Internet was illegal. Most of these websites don’t even have any Turkish books. I came across a file that said ‘Turkish book collection’ by chance and downloaded it without giving it a second thought. I must have not realized that I downloaded them among the thousands of books that were on my computer.

I saw Adnan Oktar’s books, which he published under the alias Harun Yahya, quite often and avoided downloading them. However, I must have downloaded this compressed Turkish collection without really thinking about what could be in there. I could have also downloaded these books with an academic curiosity about why Gulen is so popular, I don’t really remember. But, even if I wanted to download some books with this intent, I wouldn’t have picked these books with such titles. There’s only one explanation, which is that I saw that compressed file of Turkish books and downloaded them to have some Turkish e-books and that they were in that collection. I don’t know if this report on digital materials included them but my external hard drive had thousands of detective novels and cookbooks. I had books on ‘how to build a solar panel’ and ‘how to cultivate tomatoes.’ However, despite owning these books, I’ve never really cooked that much or attempted to become a detective. Me having only two FETO-related books is not that weird or surprising among an electronic library of thousands of books.”  

Lawyer Doğan noted that these two books that are being presented as constituting the element of the crime, could not be related to the allegations. Doğan added that they would present a more comprehensive defense statement once the prosecutor prepared his opinion.

Yazgan: Evidence are unlawful

Özlem Dalkıran’s lawyer Tuncel Yazgan presented a 20-page petition to the court, claiming that digital materials brought before the court cannot be considered as evidence. Yazgan stated that these digital materials were not confiscated properly during the police raid which took place five days after the human rights defenders were taken into custody. Yazgan noted that evidence that is collected unlawfully should not be taken into consideration.

Announcing its interim decision, the court gave the prosecutor extra time to prepare the opinion as to the accusations and adjourned the trial until 16 July, 9:30 AM.