UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor urged Turkey on Monday to acquit human rights defenders who have been held in detention for six months in the trial she described as an “apparent misuse of counter-terrorism legislation”.
Lawlor noted that those on trial in the case were members of the Migration Monitoring Association (GÖÇİZDER), a non-governmental organisation working to highlight grave human rights violations that occurred in the context of forced displacement in Turkey.
“Lawful and standard financial transactions between the members of GÖÇİZDER (such as payment to an attorney, or a graphic designer) have reportedly been portrayed as financing terrorism, without tangibly showing any connection,” she stated.
The trial of the human rights defenders on terrorism charges begins on Tuesday and will last for three days.
Lawlor also wrote a letter to the Turkish government on 16 September expressing her concerns about the case.
“We also wish to reiterate our concern regarding the misuse of counterterrorism legislation to criminalize human rights defenders, journalists and civil society actors in the country,” the letter follows.
The human rights defenders were detained in June and a lawsuit was filed against 23 people in September. In the indictment, the prosecutor’s office evaluated the activities of the association and EU funds within the scope of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and claimed that the association provided financing to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) with support funds.
The prosecutor’s office claimed that some statements in a report prepared by GÖÇİZDER on forced displacement, such as “the Kurdish populated regions were forcibly evacuated and burned” and “Turkey’s oppression and persecution” were discourses of PKK.
The prosecution also stated in the indictment that those who were forced to migrate came together on the pretext of “aid and solidarity” and that their activities were against the state and this put Turkey in a difficult situation in the international arena.