Prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights advocate Eren Keskin told daily Yeni Özgür Politika newspaper that the reasoning by an appeals court that she was “not a national or domestic human rights defender” was ridiculous.
An Istanbul court used the phrase, made popular by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to ideologies that agree with his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP), as it approved a six year and three month prison sentence against the lawyer in the Özgür Gündem newspaper trial for ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’.
The judge who made this decision “must be unaware of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)”, Keskin said. “A signatory state to the ECHR cannot speak of domestic and national human rights. Human rights are universal and guaranteed by these states.”
No lawyer could make sense of the details in the ruling, “because there is no such law”, she added.
“This reasoning tells me I’m being punished for not being ‘local’. That I am punished because I uphold universal law,” she said.
Erdoğan uses the phrase in contrast to actors he deems to be under foreign influence, often against democracy and human rights defenders.
The prison sentence was issued over Keskin acting as the editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem , as part of a solidarity campaign against the shutting down of the pro-Kurdish newspaper.
The court said in the ruling:
“Taking the defendants’ statements and Özgür Gündem’s editorial policy together, it has been determined that the defendants have attempted to eliminate public security over human rights and defending human rights, that they have been mouthpieces for an organisation that engages in bloodshed and to that end attempted to clear the organisation’s name, while working to make the state and security forces look as a mechanism that acts monstrously.”
It also called for a search for a new “true and national understanding of human rights that ensures the perpetuation of the Turkish state, without causing Turkish citizens fear for their security”. Human rights should be based on the experience and accumulation of Turkey’s ancient traditions, it said.