904 days in prison: Free the political hostage Osman Kavala

Norwegian PEN President calls for Turkish civil society leader Kavala to be released from 904 days’ detention.
Den tyrkiske filantropen og aktivisten Osman Kavala ble arrestert 1. november 2017. Foto: Bianet

As of today, the civil society leader Osman Kavala has been in prison, in pre-trial detention for 904 days. Although he was acquitted of the fantastic charges in the Gezi case on February 19th 2020, he was rearrested that night and remains in prison in Silivri, Istanbul. The prosecutor of the Republic is now preparing a new indictment for a case against Kavala on espionage charges. The prosecutor is trying to infer that the Open Society Foundation grants to Turkey were used by Kavala to use overseas finance an attempt to destroy the Turkish constitutional order The Prosecutor for the Republic took over 1.5 years to prepare the indictment in the Gezi trial. To all the independent observers, public, lawyers, indeed anyone who followed the Gezi case it is clear that there is no justifiable legal reasoning behind any of the charges against Kavala. He is being held as a political hostage by the current regime. The European Court ruled strongly on December 10th, 2019, while Kavala was a defendant in the Gezi trial, that his incarceration was both politically motivated and a clear infringement of his rights to liberty and security and hist right to a fair trial.

Norwegian PEN monitored all 6 public hearings of the Gezi trial in Silivri prison in 2019 and 2020.

We call upon the government of Turkey to drop this charade and to uphold the rule of law.  Osman Kavala must be released immediately. His pretrial detention is illegal, unjustified and in light of the current threats to prisoners posed by the COVID-19 virus, is a danger to his health. Kavala is a civil society leader whose foundation has enabled hundreds of art and literature projects to be realised, forging artistic friendships between Turkey and Europe. The nationalist element in Turkey’s government seem to see any cooperation with Europe as suspicious, and yet Turkey’s judicial system itself benefits from European Commission grants for training in human rights and other areas.

Kavala must be freed forthwith and compensated for the 904 days stolen from him. We will continue to monitor the current bogus case against him and will study the forthcoming indictment very closely. The fact that there are so few media sources that are able to hold the government to account goes to show the press freedom is still a critical concern in Turkey. We call for the restoration of the rule of law and for press freedom in Turkey and for the release on bail of all political prisoners during the current pandemic. Free Osman Kavala.

What can you do? Write to Osman with a few words of support: 

Osman Kavala
Silivri Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
9 No’lu Cezaevi, A-7 / C 59
34570, Silivri/Istanbul

Please only include words of support for Kavala in your letter, as political messages are usually censored by the prison.

Read more about Osman Kavala on the campaign site

Twenty-four rights-groups call on Turkey to release all those arbitrarily detained, now at risk of Covid-19

Osman Kavala

In the early hours of Tuesday 14 April, the Turkish Parliament passed a law which will lead to the release of up to 90,000 prisoners. However, it excludes scores of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians, lawyers and others arbitrarily detained pending trial or serving sentences following unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws which facilitate incarceration for exercise of free speech.

While we welcome any measures taken to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons, the new measures unjustifiably exclude tens of thousands who are imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights.  ARTICLE 19, Punto24 and the 22 undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to take immediate steps to fulfill their human rights obligations by releasing all those arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and help mitigate the threat caused by the Covid-19 public health pandemic

The adoption of the law, which is part of the government’s judicial reform strategy announced in 2019, was fast-tracked in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to alleviate overcrowding in Turkey’s prisons. The new law comes into force as Turkey’s Justice Ministry has announced the death of three prisoners from Covid-19 on 13 April. The new law does not apply to individuals in pre-trial detention and also excludes anyone convicted of terrorism-related crimes, espionage or crimes against the intelligence services – laws which are frequently used to prosecute journalists, human rights defenders and others. This means many thousands of individuals whose only crime is the exercise of their right to freedom of expression are effectively excluded from release and are at increased risk of contracting the disease in prison.

Among them are Ahmet Altan, 70, who is awaiting appeal after being sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member”, on the basis of his expression of political views, his previous role as editor of Taraf newspaper, and alleged contacts. It also includes businessman Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for over two and a half years, currently on the charge of “espionage” and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in prison since November 2016 and whose release has been repeatedly blocked despite a European Court decision ordering it. Journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser, were remanded in prison in March, on charges under the Law on National Intelligence Agency, in connection with their reporting on the death of an intelligence officer in Libya.

Turkey is subject to the authority of both the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and the European Committee on the Prevention on Torture who respectively have issued calls to “reduce prison populations and other detention populations, wherever possible” and said concerted efforts by all relevant authorities to resort to alternatives to deprivation of liberty “ is imperative, in particular, in situations of overcrowding.”

We likewise urge the Turkish authorities to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation, which strongly recommends States give enhanced consideration to non-custodial measures at all stages of the administration of criminal justice, including at the pre-trial, trial and sentencing as well as post-sentencing stages. It also urges priority be given to conditional release, particularly for older persons, ill people, and others (including pregnant women) with specific risks related to Covid-19. The WHO has made it clear that without taking urgent measures in prisons to reduce the spread of the virus, efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 in the community are also likely to fail.

The Turkish courts frequently justify pre-trial detention on the grounds of flight risk or tampering with evidence. Given the closure of borders due to the pandemic, it is difficult to see what justification there is for holding individuals in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods in what is now an extremely high risk situation.

To protect the human rights of prisoners, including their right to life and health, and to protect the health of the public at large, the Turkish authorities should now enact immediate measures to release all those arbitrarily detained, whether in pre-trial detention or after conviction, particularly given many are vulnerable to Covid-19 due to their age or underlying health conditions. We urge the authorities to move now to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Failure to release those detained and imprisoned in unfair trials and on spurious charges, which would help reduce the spread of a deadly disease in detention, would show further alarming disregard for human rights by the Turkish government.



Punto24, Platform for Independent Journalism
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
German PEN
Human Rights Watch
IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
International Federation of Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN America
PEN International
PEN Turkey
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TSLP)
Wan-Ifra / World Association of News Publishers

Turkey: Advertising ban on independent newspaper must be lifted

24 international and local press freedom organisations ask that BIK lift the advertising ban on independent newspaper Evrensel.
Screenshot of the Turkish newspaper Evrensel.

Rıdvan Duran,
General Director, Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK)
Merkez Efendi Mah. Mevlana Cad. No: 140/A
Toya Plaza Kat: 5 Zeytinburnu / İSTANBUL

March 16, 2020

Dear Mr. Duran,

On behalf of the 24 international and local press freedom organisations and signatories to this letter, we are writing to ask that Basın İlan Kurumu (BIK) swiftly lift the advertising ban currently imposed on the newspaper Evrensel.

Evrensel has been under an advertising ban since September, 2019, and if the ban remains in place for a full six months, until March 28, 2020, Evrensel faces being removed from the public advertising system for at least three years.

Such a decision would have a devastating impact on the finances of the newspaper, threatening its closure and weakening the diversity and pluralism of Turkey’s newspaper market.

In February you met with representatives of the International Press Institute (IPI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Journalists Syndicate of Turkey (TGS), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and assured them that the ban would be lifted as soon as Evrensel made the necessary changes to their distribution system so as not to fall foul of the bulk buying rules.

Evrensel have since made the changes requested of them, but have three times had their appeals refused after new audits conducted by BIK.

BIK was given a crucial democratic role when it was established in 1961 to provide support to the country’s newspaper sector through the even distribution of public advertising funds. The system has become essential to the survival of many newspapers as the economic pressures on the print industry have grown over the past decade.

BIK’s role is therefore vital to ensure the health, diversity and plurality of Turkey’s newspaper sector. Central to that is, of course, its policy to provide support regardless of a newspaper’s editorial line. Evrensel is known for its independent reporting and has, in recent years, been targeted for judicial harassment as a consequence.

In addition to the indefinite ban, since September BIK has also issued three other limited bans on Evrensel for alleged ‘press ethics violations’. Further penalties would strongly suggest that BIK is being used to punish Evrensel for its independent reporting.

We urge you therefore to make good on your promise and to ensure the prompt lifting of the ban on Evrensel prior to the end of the six month deadline.

We also take this opportunity to urge BIK to start publishing annual reports on the distribution of its funds that we understand amount to 450 million Turkish Lira of public funds and on the different disciplinary measures taken against newspapers. Providing transparency on BIK’s use of public funds would enable the public to verify that its money is used correctly and is consistent with the principles of supporting a pluralistic and democratic media environment.

Kind regards


Article 19
Articolo 21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Civic Space Studies Association – Turkey / Sivil Alan Araştırmaları Derneği
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
German PEN
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Journalists Union of Turkey
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN America
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

Altan-brødrene fortsatt fengslet: - Falske terroranklager, sier 22 menneskerettsorganisasjoner

Altan-brødrene og fire andre journalister og skribenter er fortsatt siktet for å støtte terrorisme etter ankerettssak i Istanbul.
Mehmet og Ahmet Altan. Foto: English PEN

Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı og Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül holdes fortsatt fengslet, og anklagene mot alle opprettholdes.

Nedenfor følger en uttalelse fra menneskerettighetsorganisasjonen Article 19. Norsk PEN er blant 22 organisasjoner som har tilsluttet seg kravet om å frafalle siktelsene mot alle seks, og løslate de som sitter fengslet.

Les bakgrunn og tidslinje for saken her.

Altans & others still in jail as retrial commences on new bogus terrorism charges

On 8 October, the retrial of journalists, writers and media workers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül on terrorism charges began at the High Penal Court No. 26 in Istanbul. The retrial on these charges was ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals in July 2019. ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) observed the opening hearing of the retrial. The court issued an interim decision ordering the continued detention of all defendants apart from Mehmet Altan, who had previously been released following decisions by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights that his rights had been violated. The cases of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak have been prioritised by the European Court of Human Rights, but are still pending. The undersigned organisations call for all defendants to be released, for the trial to be halted and all charges dropped given the lack of credible evidence presented in the indictment or referred to in the Supreme Court of Appeals decision.

No prima facie case

In July 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals quashed the defendants’ convictions for ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’. The decision stated there could be no causal link established between the evidence presented and the crime, an argument also made by ARTICLE 19 in an expert opinion presented to the trial court. The Supreme Court of Appeals did not issue any new charges against Mehmet Altan but held that Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should be charged with ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’ and the other defendants, Yakup Şimşek, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül should be charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’. The undersigned organisations believe that these new terrorism charges violate the defendants’ right to freedom of expression and that the evidence which has been relied upon to pursue them is as unrelated to terrorism as it was to the sedition charges. We are concerned that the retrial forms yet another phase of the systematic judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey.

Concerns of bias at the trial

Concerns about the appearance of bias were raised by defence lawyers during the hearing. The panel of judges was the same as those who had refused to implement the earlier judgment of the Constitutional Court: that Mehmet Altan’s rights had been violated due to his pre-trial detention. The defence lawyers for Mehmet Altan have also been filing motions with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors for the removal of the panel of judges on the grounds that they were not impartial during the previous trial. ARTICLE 19 and RSF monitored all hearings in that trial and believe the case to have been politically-motivated and that the defendants’ rights to a fair trial were violated before and during proceedings.

Inconsistent Judgments at the Constitutional Court

In January 2018, the Constitutional Court ruled that there had been a violation of the right to liberty and security, and the right to freedom of expression in the case of Mehmet Altan, but in July 2019 the court ruled that there had been no violation of these rights in the case of Ahmet Altan. While the evidence presented against Ahmet and Mehmet Altan is not strictly identical, it is hard to see how the evidence presented against Ahmet Altan, which consists mainly of his articles and speeches, could justify any criminal charges let alone terrorism-related charges. Indeed, five Constitutional Court judges dissented on the case of Ahmet Altan, including the presiding judge. While the European Court of Human Rights has considered the Constitutional Court capable of being an effective remedy to human rights violations, we believe that in this case the Constitutional Court has not provided an effective remedy due to the inconsistency of decision making. We are also concerned about the lack of implementation of its decision regarding Mehmet Altan by the trial court.

Impact of European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the trial

The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision in Mehmet Altan’s case in March 2018. The Court found that the applicant’s rights to liberty and security and to freedom of expression had been violated. In so doing, it endorsed the decision of the Constitutional Court that Mehmet Altan’s pre-trial detention had been unjustified. This decision has had a clear impact on the outcome of the trial of Mehmet Altan: the Supreme Court of Appeals referred to the rulings of both the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in support of its decision to quash Mehmet Altan’s conviction on charges of ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’. The European Court has yet to rule on the applications of Ahmet Altan and other journalists and members of civil society, such as Osman Kavala, who has been in pre-trial detention for over 700 days detained on politically motivated charges. We believe that a ruling from the European Court could have a decisive impact on the current criminal proceedings against them. Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19, Sarah Clarke said:

“We are increasingly seeing disturbingly inconsistent decisions issued by the Constitutional Court, raising the spectre of political interference. At the same time, the rights of Ahmet Altan and others continue to be flagrantly violated. We believe the role of the ECtHR in identifying rights violations in these cases is critical and we hope to see the court review these cases as a matter of urgency, especially in light of the dissenting opinions at the Constitutional level in the case of Ahmet Altan”

We, the undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to release, halt the trial and drop these baseless charges against the defendants immediately. 

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Amnesty International
  • Articulo 21
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Civic Space Studies Association
  • Danish PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • English PEN
  • Freedom House
  • German PEN
  • Global Editors Network (GEN)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Norwegian PEN
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN

Altan-saken: Bakgrunn og tidslinje

Mehmet og Ahmet Altan sitter fortsatt fengslet, etter å ha blitt pågrepet i sine hjem i 2016. Under følger en oppsummering på engelsk over bakgrunn og tidslinje for saken.


  • 22/23 September 2016: Mehmet and Ahmet Altan taken into pretrial detention.
  • 8 November 2016: Applications challenging their detention are made to the Constitutional Court.
  • 12 January 2017: After the Constitutional Court had failed to rule on any cases for many months in the state of emergency period, applications are also made to the European Court of Human Rights regarding the pre-trial detention.
  • 11 January 2018: The Constitutional Court rules on the case of Mehmet Altan, stating that there was insufficient evidence presented to justify holding him in pre-trial detention and that his right to freedom of expression had been violated. The 26th Istanbul Assize Court refuses to implement the decision and does not release Mehmet Altan, in flagrant violation of the rule of law.
  • 16 February 2018: All six defendants in the case are convicted at the 26th Istanbul Assize Court of ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence and force’ and sentenced to life in prison.
  • 20 March 2018: The European Court of Human Rights issues a decision in the case of Mehmet Altan, stating that there had been a violation of the rights to liberty and security and to freedom of expression, in line with the Constitutional Court ruling.
  • 27 June 2018: The cases are accepted by the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, acting as an appellate court, and Mehmet Altan is released based on the Constitutional Court ruling.
  • 8 January 2019: Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals issues a judicial opinion stating the Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak should have been charged with ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’ rather than ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order’.
  • 3 May 2019: The Constitutional Court rules on the case of Ahmet Altan, deciding that his rights had not been violated. Five judges dissent, notably including the head judge, who argues in his dissenting opinion that Ahmet Altan’s right to freedom of expression had been violated.
  • 5 July 2019: The Supreme Court of Appeals issues a judgment overturning the convictions. Referring to the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights, they rule to acquit Mehmet Altan, while Ahmet Altan receives the charge of ‘aiding a terrorist organisation’.
  • 8 October 2019: At the opening hearing of the retrial, the judge does not release Ahmet Altan on bail, despite the lower charges and amount of time already served.

What evidence was referred to in the Supreme Court of Appeals decision?

Alleged evidence against Mehmet Altan

  • Witness statements of ex-directors of the [armed terrorist] organization [FETÖ/PYD]
  • His speech on a TV program entitled «Free Thinking» along with the other defendants Nazlı Ilıcak and Ahmet Altan
  • His articles entitled “the Meaning of Sledgehammer” (17/12/10) and “Turbulence” (20/07/16)

The Supreme Court of Appeals also referred to the Constitutional Court ruling, which stated that the detention order was based on his allegedly having a bank account in Bank Asya and possessing an ‘F-series’ US dollar bill.

Alleged evidence against Ahmet Altan

  • That he was the founder and editor-in-chief of the shuttered Taraf newspaper, which the prosecutor alleges was used by the armed terrorist organisation [FETÖ/PYD]
  • That he was a writer on “haber.com” which the prosecutor alleges was the publication of the armed terrorist organisation [FETÖ/PYD]
  • His articles entitled “I Am Here Talk to Me” (03/03/2015), “Absolute Fear” (12/05/2016), “Sweep over” (14/06/2016) and “Mont Montezuma» (10/07/2016)
  • Phone records allegedly demonstrating that he communicated with senior executives of the armed terrorist organization
  • His speech on July 14, 2016 on Can Erzincan TV at the program «Free Thought» with other defendants Nazlı Ilıcak and Mehmet Altan.

Alleged evidence against Nazlı Ilıcak:

  • That she was a writer in the terrorist organization’s various publications
  • Her articles in the book titled «Is there ‘The Cemaat’ under every stone?»(2012), which are considered to be intended to maintain the visible legitimacy of this organization.
  • Using her personal twitter account for the purpose of creating public opinion in favor of the terrorist organization, including on the day of the coup attempt,
  • According to witness statements of ex-senior managers of this organization, she communicated with the media structure of the FETÖ/PYD armed terrorist organization and, according to the HTS records, she communicated with the with the senior executives of this aforementioned organization.
  • Her notes seized at her residence written about the members of the organization.

Alleged evidence against Yakup Şimşek:

  • Having served in high-level positions such as brand marketing director and various departments of Zaman Newspaper,
  • That he opened a bank account in Bank Asya upon instructions of the leader of the alleged terrorist organization,
  • That he opened a bank account on behalf of his children at Bank Asya,
  • His alleged contact with the top executives of the terrorist organization,
  • That he contributed to the preparation of an advertisement entitled «The Scream of Silence» published in October 2015 which included the speculative subliminal messages.
  • That books of the leader of the terrorist organisation were seized at his residence

Alleged evidence against Fevzi Yazıcı:

  • That he served as senior director and graphic design officer of Zaman Newspaper,
  • Attended the meetings of the leader of the alleged terrorist organization during his stay in United States of America between the years of 1999-2003,
  • That he opened a bank account in the Bank Asya upon instructions of the leader of the organization,
  • That he was a member of the Trade Union Pak Medya-İş, closed down by the Decree Law no 667,
  • That he contributed to the preparation of the advertising titled «The Scream of Silence» published in October 2015 which included the speculative subliminal messages.

Alleged evidence against Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül

  • That he was a columnist on »samanyoluhaber.com» website, allegedly a media organ of the terrorist organization,
  • That he was a presenter on the program “Bağzı (some) Things” on TV channel “Samanyolu News«,
  • His alleged contact with the senior executives of the terrorist organization and with the user of the “fuat avni” twitter account, intended to make propaganda for the purposes of the terrorist organization.
  • His article entitled »Don’t get angry, I’ll say something” dated on 07/03/2016, intended to support the aforementioned organization,
  • A post on his twitter account dated on 30/12/2014 which said the following:  »there is a very serious smell of military coup in the air»,
  • His speech in the program “Freedom Time” broadcasted on STV channel, on the day of the coup attempt, where he allegedly praised the military coup during the coup attempt and allegedly intended to prevent the people from going to the streets against the coup d’état through his speeches,
  • His alleged attempt to mask the members of the coup d’état and legitimize the coup attempt by saying that the coup was carried out by other groups within the armed forces.

Note: In the first trial no witness statements were heard and no cross examination of the defendants took place. The content of the articles referred to in evidence was not discussed in court, except in the oral defence statements by the defendants. The phone records were not presented in court. The dollar bill in the case of Mehmet Altan was presented, however the meaning of this and how it proves a link to the terrorist organisation was not established. As such, the evidence presented in the Supreme Court of Appeals decision, similar to the evidence in the first trial, appears to consist entirely of conduct which is not itself criminal, or, on its face, evidence of a link with a terrorist organisation.

Internasjonalt opprop: Løslat Osman Kavala og hans 15 medtiltalte

Norsk PEN og en lang rekke ytringsfrihets- og presseorganisasjoner fordømmer den tyrkiske domstolens beslutning 8. oktober om fortsatt fengsling av Osman Kavala og de 15 medtiltalte i den såkalte Gezipark-saken. Vi ber om at siktelsene mot de 16 henlegges og at de tiltalte løslates umiddelbart.


We, the undersigned freedom of expression and media freedom organisations, strongly condemn the court’s interim decision on the Gezi Park trial to continue the detention of civil society leading figure Osman Kavala at the end of the third hearing of the case, on 8 October 2019.

The judicial panel of the 30th High Criminal Court sitting at Silivri High Security Facility in Istanbul upheld the prosecutor’s request for the continuing detention of Kavala in Silivri. The next hearing was set for 24-25 December 2019. We believe that the decision against Kavala’s release and the very continuation of this trial contravenes international human rights standards and is a clear demonstration of the lack of a functioning judicial system in Turkey.

We call for the case against all 16 defendants to be dropped and for Kavala and human rights defender Yiğit Aksakoğlu to be compensated for the time they have spent in prison.

Doubts over the independence of the court panel were cast by many, including lawyer Can Atalay, defendant in this case. While giving oral evidence at court in his defence, Atalay commented that the changes in the judicial panel made by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors are indications of the lack of impartiality of the judiciary. As such, he argued that it was in contravention of Articles 36 (right to a Fair Trial) and 37 (right to a Natural Judge) of the Turkish Constitution, and in violation of the right to a fair trial as enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President of Norwegian PEN said:

The lack of independence of the judicial panel has been proved beyond doubt today. In a case where there is neither evidence nor cause to detain the defendant Kavala in prison for one more day, the decision was given for his continued detention. By the time of the next hearing in December, Kavala will have spent over two years in prison for no tangible legal reason. We call for the entire case to be dropped and for this surreal and illegal process to be brought to a close.

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia for ARTICLE 19, said:

A decision on Kavala’s case remains pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Today’s proceedings underscore the disintegration of the rule of law and domestic remedy in Turkey, as the defendant – who has already spent over 700 days in detention – is ordered to remain in pre-trial detention– on completely baseless charges. We urge the European Court of Human Rights to speedily rule in this case.

We urge the Turkish Ministry of Justice to put an end to such practices where punishment is meted out ahead of possible conviction and to commit to the abolition of extended pretrial detention, as the Government outlined in the recent Judicial Reform Strategy, by immediately freeing Kavala.

We also call upon all diplomatic missions and all other international observers to attend the next hearing on 24-25 December 2019 to records the proceedings and show their continuing support for the defendants.

Article 19

Articolo 21

Civic Space Studies Association

Danish PEN

ECPMF (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)

English PEN

EFJ (European Federation of Journalists)

Freedom House

German PEN

GEN Global Editors Network

IFJ International Federation of Journalists

Norwegian PEN

OBCT (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa)

P24 (Punto 24)

PEN America

PEN Canada

PEN International

SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)

Swedish PEN

Wales PEN Cymru

Tyrkisk Kafka i retten

På vegne av Norsk PEN har vår Tyrkia-rådgiver Caroline Stockford og styreleder Kjersti Løken Stavrum vært i Istanbul for å overvære den såkalte Gezi-rettssaken. Også omtalt som «En sak uten bevis». De tiltalte, deriblant filantropen Osman Kavala, risikerer 3000 år pluss livstid uten mulighet for anke.

Saken er av alle kontroversielle saker i Tyrkia den det er knyttet størst internasjonal oppmerksomhet til.

De 16 tiltalte i Gezi-saken i Istanbul kan ikke bruke tiltalen for å forstå hva de skal ha gjort galt, skriver PENs leder Kjersti Løken Stavrum i sin rapport fra rettssalen 24. juni 2019:

– Jeg vet ikke hva jeg har gjort galt, oppsummerte Hakan Altinay, en av de 16 tiltalte i Gezi-saken i ettermiddag.

Vi som fulgte saken i den enorme rettssalen i Silivri-fengselet utenfor Istanbul har spurte oss om det samme. Det eneste vi vet er at de er tiltalt for å organisere og finansiere et forsøk på statskupp og at de risikerer nærmere 3000 år + livstid i fengsel, hver av dem. I tillegg kommer et krav om flere hundre millioner kroner i erstatning for skadeverk.

TILTALEN inneholder ingen bevis. De tiltalte vet ikke hvordan de skal forsvare seg. Utgangspunktet er opptøyene i Gezi-parken i 2013. Først nå, seks år etter, har påtalemyndighetene sydd sammen en sak og samlet sammen 16 tiltalte. Saken er omtalt som «En sak uten bevis».

OPPTØYENE skal ha vært motivert av et forsøk på statskupp fra de 16. Men flere av dem har aldri møtt hverandre før. En av dem, den 68 år gamle arkitekten Ayse Mucella Yacipi, påpekte at hun fremdeles er avhengig av å jobbe for å forsørge seg selv, hun har ingen eiendommer – og «hvordan skulle jeg finansiert et forsøk på statskupp?!» spurte hun retorisk.

BAKTEPPET for saken er det aller verste. Tyrkia er et land som sklir utfor med hensyn på rettssikkerhet og pressefrihet. Derfor hadde også nærmere tusen tyrkiske og internasjonale advokater, diplomater og observatører som oss i Norsk PEN møtt opp for å følge saken på nært hold.

BARE 12 PLASSER var satt av til pressen, bakerst i hjørnet i den enorme rettssalen (på størrelse med en idrettshall). Dessuten endres reglene for pressen fra gang til gang i disse rettssakene. Det stilles nye krav til hvilke pressekort som gjelder og hvor mange internasjonale journalister som kan være til stede.

DOMMEREN startet med å si at han antok at alle hadde lest tiltalen (over 600 sider) og hoppet dermed over tiltalepunktene. Siden sa de tre dommerne absolutt ingenting. De stilte ingen spørsmål og de avklarte ingenting. Dette alene fikk flere av de utenlandske juristene til å heve øyebryn.

ENGASJEMENTET for denne saken er stort. Da den mest profilert tiltalte, Osman Kavala, kom inn i rettssalen, reiste alle tilhørerne seg og klappet og heiet mens han vinket til alle. Kavala har sittet 601 dager i varetekt i dag – ingen har sittet så lenge uten lov og dom i fengsel i moderne Tyrkia. Da han og Yigit Aksakoglu – som har sittet i varetekt i 220 dager – hadde lest opp sitt forsvar, så jeg at flere diplomater måtte tørke øynene. Det er for så vidt betryggende.

HVA SKJER videre? I går ble en av de varetektsfengslede, Yigit Aksakoglu, sluppet fri i påvente av neste rettsrunde 18. og 19. juli. Osman Kavala sitter fremdeles. Etter over 600 dager er han den som har sittet lengst i varetekt i modere tid i Tyrkia. Ellers diskuteres saken intenst mellom jurister, diplomater og internasjonale observatører. Ingen av analysene baserer seg imidlertid hva som er lagt frem av bevis eller hva som er kommet frem i retten. Alle vurderinger handler om bakteppet for saken, den politiske situasjonen i Tyrkia og hva som tjener Erdogan. Det er en politisk Kafka-prosess vi er vitne til i rettssalen.

Her er ti gode sitater fra de fem første vitnemålene i saken:

1) Den eneste logikken i tiltalen er at sidetallene kommer i riktig rekkefølge. (Yigit Aksakoglu)

2) Da jeg ble tiltalt for deler av den samme tiltalen for fem år siden (og frikjent, min anm), ble jeg bekymret for landets fremtid. Det hadde jeg rett i. Nå er jeg dessuten tiltalt for å ville styrte regjeringen. (Ayse Mucella Yacipi)

3) Deler av tiltalen er skrevet av jurister så langt tilbake som 2013 – og flere av disse er selv under etterforskning nå. (Osman Kavala)

4) George Soros som skal ha finansiert (og som skal stå bak) dette kuppforsøket, har ingen snakket med. Navnet hans er ikke en gang nevnt i tiltalen. (Osman Kavala)

5) Hvis vi skulle ha finansiert opptøyene i Gezi-parken, burde man kunnet finne spor av transaksjoner. (Osman Kavala)

6) Jeg kjenner ingen av de andre tiltalte (som han skal ha organisert kuppforsøket sammen med). Den lengste samtalen jeg har hatt med Kavala var her i fengselskorridoren. (Yigit Aksakoglu)

7) Dere har varetektsfengslet oss såpass lenge bare for å gi troverdighet til saken. (Yigit Aksakoglu).

8) Dere har tiltalte, men ingen bevis. (Yigit Aksakoglu)

9) Hvordan kan dere rettferdiggjøre livstid i fengsel for å ha støttet en kunstutstilling? (Hakan Altinay)

10) Dagens understatement: Å bli anklaget for å organisere et statskupp uten bevis, taler ikke til dette landets fordel. (Hakan Altinay)

også video der Kjersti Løken Stavrum oppsummerer rettssaken.

Turkey: Gezi Park case must be dismissed


Taksim Square – Gazi Park Protests, ?stanbul- Photo: Alan Hilditsch

24 June 2019 – PEN centres in fourteen countries today joined PEN International and Norwegian PEN in calling for the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu and drop all charges against them and their 14 co-defendants including prominent figures in the Taksim resistance such as Mücella Yapıcı, Tayfun Kahraman and Can Atalay. All defendants face life imprisonment on the charge of ‘attempting to overthrow the government’ during the Gezi Park protests of 2013. Representatives of PEN International, Norwegian PEN and PEN Turkey will be monitoring the hearings at Silivri High Security Prison’s courthouse near Istanbul on 24 and 25 June, 2019.

‘We condemn the Turkish authorities’ efforts to prosecute 16 civil society figures for their alleged role in the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Such spurious charges, for which the defendants face life in prison without the possibility of parole, should be dropped. The distinct lack of evidence in this case underlines its deeply political nature and serves as a stark reminder of the Turkish authorities’ readiness to silence dissenting voices,’ said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.

A 657-page long indictment, released on 19 February 2019 and accepted by Istanbul’s 30th High Criminal Court on 4 March 2019, accuses the defendants of being responsible for crimes allegedly committed by protestors across Turkey during May and June 2013 and reframes the overwhelmingly peaceful protests as a conspiracy to overthrow the government. The indictment lists the plaintiffs as the then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his entire cabinet at the time and 746 other complainants. Evidence consists mainly of intercepted telephone calls from the defendants, extensive details of foreign travel over a number of years and social media posts. The evidence further consists of surveillance camera photographs of publisher and civil society leader Osman Kavala meeting various people. With the exception of the phone calls, the majority of the evidence is dated after the protests took place.

Two of the defendants, Osman Kavala and rights-defender Yiğit Aksakoğlu, have been held in pre-trial detention in Silivri prison since 1 November 2017 and 17 November 2018 respectively. Three of the defendants – actor and director Memet Ali Alabora, actor Pınar Öğün and novelist and playwright Meltem Arıkan – are notably accused of having provoked the Gezi park protests with their play Mi Minör, staged in December, 2012. All defendants have been charged with ‘attempting to overthrow the government or partially or wholly preventing its functions’ under Article 312 of Turkey’s Criminal Code, the most severe sentence under Turkish law.

‘No evidence contained in the indictment successfully links any of the accused to a concerted effort to bring down the government, nor does it establish that any of the defendants were aware of plots to do so. Not only have the rights of liberty and security of Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu been violated under Turkey’s constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, but said violations appear to infringe the Convention’s Article 18, in that these detentions and the bringing of the case overall has a purely political motivation,’ said Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President of Norwegian PEN.

‘Osman Kavala has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for 20 months; Yiğit Aksakoğlu for over seven months. Prominent figures in the Taksim resistance as well as writers, actors and filmmakers are in the witness box. We call on the Turkish authorities to release Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu immediately and unconditionally, to drop charges against all defendants in this case and to urgently end their crackdown on civil society,’ said Caroline Stockford, Turkey Adviser to Norwegian PEN.

Additional information
In May 2013 a peaceful protest against an urban development plan was staged in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces in the city. Local protests quickly spread and turned into the biggest civil protest in Turkey’s history, with over 3 million people taking to the streets across 81 cities. Nine people lost their lives and thousands were injured, as police repeatedly used aggressive tactics and excessive force against protestors. While thousands of people were arrested during the course of the protests, most cases that went to trial ended in acquittal. Four years later, however, the Turkish authorities began to arrest those they suspected of organising the protests in an apparent attempt to secure public support and solidify power.

Civil society leader, philanthropist, publisher, and human rights defender Osman Kavala, who is accused of financing the Gezi movement, was first detained on 18 October 2017 at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport upon returning from the city of Gaziantep, south-eastern Turkey. On 1 November 2017, a Court in Istanbul ruled that he be remanded in Silivri Prison, where he has been detained since. On 22 May 2019, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected an application to end his continued pre-trial detention. His case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

The defendants, in alphabetical order of surnames, are:
Yiğit Aksakoğlu (Civil society professional) – held in pretrial detention
Memet Ali Alabora (Director, actor) – abroad
Hakan Altınay (Chair of Open Society Foundation) – in Turkey, subject of travel ban
Meltem Arıkan (Novelist, playwright) – abroad
Can Atalay (Lawyer and human rights defender) – in Turkey
Can Dündar (Journalist, author) – abroad
İnanç Ekmekci – abroad
Yiğit Ekmekçi (Chair of Anadolu Kültür) – in Turkey, subject of travel ban
Hikmet Germiyanoğlu (NGO consultant) – in Turkey
Tayfun Kahraman (Urban planner) – in Turkey
Osman Kavala (Director of Open Society Foundation) – in pretrial detention
Çiğdem Mater (Film producer) – in Turkey, subject of travel ban
Pınar Öğün (Actor) – abroad
Mine Özerden (Civil society and arts project coordinator) – in Turkey, subject of travel ban
Mücella Yapıcı (Architect and engineer) – in Turkey
Gökçe Yılmaz – in Turkey
Report by English PEN – ‘The Gezi protests: the impact on freedom of expression in Turkey’

The Gezi Park Protests: the impact on freedom of expression in Turkey

Danish PEN
English PEN
French PEN
German PEN
Kurdish PEN
Norwegian PEN
PEN America
PEN Belgium/Flanders
PEN Canada
PEN International
PEN Netherlands
PEN Suisse Romand
PEN Turkey
Scottish PEN
Swedish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru

Media enquiries
PEN International        mike.halmshaw@pen-international.org
Norwegian PEN            cevirimiz@gmail.com

26 free expression groups urge acquittal of Özgür Gündem guest editors in Turkey

From left: Ahmet Nesin, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu.

The below-named freedom of expression organisations denounce the lengthy judicial harassment suffered by Reporters Without Borders representative and IPI member Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation Chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist Ahmet Nesin and call for their full acquittal at the hearing on April 15, 2019, when a verdict is expected.

The three defendants are charged with “engaging in propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, “incitement to commit a crime” and “praising criminal activities and those engaged in them” for standing in as guest editors in the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” solidarity campaign for the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.

We further denounce the ongoing detention and prosecution of scores of journalists in Turkey as an autocratic attempt to silence all dissenting voices and to prevent independent journalists from carrying out their profession.

We offer our support and solidarity to our colleagues Önderoğlu, Korur Fincancı and Nesin, who have been subjected to a trial lasting almost three years, and we call on the Turkish government to cease such oppression of journalists, academics and writers.

“This case is about an act of collegial solidarity that should never have resulted in criminal proceedings. Turkey must cease violating the rights of journalists to disseminate the news and of the public to receive balanced reporting,”, Caroline Stockford, Turkey Advocacy Coordinator at the International Press Institute, said.

«By targeting prominent human rights defenders, the authorities aim to decimate what little remains of civil society in Turkey. They will not succeed. We stand united with our colleagues and insist that this relentless judicial harassment cease,» said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19.

«When the very act of solidarity for repressed journalism is criminalised in Turkey, international solidarity for our colleagues becomes even more crucial.” – Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

«International public opinion should know that Turkey is not merely Erdogan’s Turkey. Like Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin, there are many people and courageous initiatives that need to be heard about and be supported. This is why providing the international public with continuous and in-depth coverage on Turkey is so important today», Chiara Sighele, OBC Transeuropa.

“We stand united in support of Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin. We promise that we will do our utmost to support the journalists and to put pressure on the Turkish government to cease the prosecution and detention of journalists“, said Kjersti Løken Stavrum, Vice President of Norwegian PEN.

Özgür Gündem has long been targeted by Turkish authorities for its journalism. Last month the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of expression in systematically bringing terrorism-related criminal cases against Özgür Gündem’s owner, Ali Gürbüz, between 2004 and 2005.

Articolo 21
Association of European Journalists
CRNI (Cartoonists Rights Network International)
CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists)
Danish PEN
ECPMF (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)
EFJ (European Federation of Journalists)
English PEN
Freedom House
Front Line Defenders
German PEN
IFJ (International Federation of Journalists)
IPI (International Press Institute)
Norwegian PEN
OBC Transeuropa
PEN America
PEN Belgium/Flanders
PEN Canada
PEN Germany
PEN International
PEN Netherlands
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
Swedish PEN
Wales PEN Cymru

Resolution: Turkey: The myth of domestic legal remedy

Nearly 50 MPs join IPI-led resolution calling for restoration of rule of law and release of Turkey’s journalists

A total of 47 MEPs and 13 press freedom and free expression organizations led by the International Press Institute (IPI) have joined a resolution underscoring the lack of effective domestic legal remedies for journalists targeted in Turkey’s media crackdown.

The resolution follows a roundtable held under Chatham House Rules on January 29, 2019, at the European Parliament on “Turkey: The Myth of Domestic Legal Remedy. Organized by IPI and MEP Rebecca Harms, the event was attended by MEPs, representatives of the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and representatives of human rights NGOs as well as journalists and legal experts from Turkey. The roundtable examined the lack of independence and impartiality of Turkey’s judiciary and the failure of Europe-wide institutions to acknowledge to inability of Turkish courts to provide an effective remedy for rights violations.

IPI research shows that over 150 journalists in Turkey remain behind bars, many of whom have suffered egregious violations of their right to a fair trial.

The resolution calls on Turkey to uphold domestic and international guarantees for freedom of expression and personal liberty and security as well as basic rights of defendants in criminal proceedings, including to the presumption of innocence, to appear physically before a judge in a timely manner and to receive a fair hearing conducted by an independent and impartial judicial panel. It also urges Turkey to free all journalists held due to their work.

IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford said:

“This resolution, which is supported by numerous MEPs and which highlights the severe challenges that Turkey’s journalists face in exercising and defending their basic rights, comes at a crucial time.  We invite Turkey to act upon these recommendations so as to restore press freedom and respect the principles of freedom of expression and the right to disseminate the news.”


The lack of visible improvements in freedom of the media in Turkey since the state of emergency was lifted on 18 July 2018 is of great concern. The mass arrests, detention and sentencing of Turkey’s journalists continue to be used as methods to stifle dissenting voices across society.

According to data from the International Press Institute (IPI), 155 journalists and media executives were in prison as of 29 January 2019. This figure makes Turkey the country with the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

Points of concern to the signatories of this resolution are, among others:

  • the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Turkey;
  • the lack of a speedy recourse to justice both domestically and before the European Court of Human Rights;
  • the practice in Turkey of criminalizing journalism by committing journalists to lengthy pretrial detention;
  • the  slow production of indictments in journalist cases in Turkey and the use of journalistic material as evidence to convict journalists; and
  • the failure of public prosecutors in Turkey to exhaustively prove the legal criteria in place to establish the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” in the case of journalists.


To the Government of Turkey:

  1. Turkey must fulfil its obligations under national and international law to protect journalists’ rights
  • to liberty and security;
  • to freedom of expression;
  • to the right to receive and disseminate the news; and
  • to a fair trial including:
    • the presumption of innocence;
    • the right to appear physically before a judge in a timely manner; and
    • the right to receive a fair hearing within a reasonable timeframe, conducted by an independent and impartial judicial panel.

2. The judiciary in Turkey must require public prosecutors to produce indictments in a timely manner, especially in cases where the defendant is held in pretrial detention. Evidence in indictments against journalists must be required to be proven beyond reasonable doubt of criminal activity.

3. Turkey must release all journalists held in pretrial detention in whose cases journalistic evidence is cited as proof of criminal activity.

4. All journalists imprisoned on unsubstantiated allegations or as a result of the practice of journalism should be immediately freed.

5. The Turkish judiciary should take all steps to fulfil its obligation to ensure that rulings in freedom of expression cases are in line with decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and relevant international standards, especially as regards the right to personal freedom and the right to a fair trial.

6. Turkey must ensure that journalists’ right to freedom of expression; their right to engage in critical, well-founded reporting in the public interest; and their right to disseminate the news are protected in order to restore the plurality of voices and alternative news sources for the people of Turkey.

7. The Public Advertising Authority (Basın İlan Kurumba) must ensure that public advertising revenue is given out, in accordance with its own guidelines, to pro-government and independent media alike. It must not deprive the few remaining independent printed daily newspapers in Turkey of much-needed state advertising revenue.

8. Turkey must fulfil its responsibility to provide journalists with the personal security to which they are entitled under the constitution and allow them to carry out their work without fear of arbitrary arrest or detention, and must condemn any threats to journalists’ safety expressed in public by officers of the state or private persons.

9. The Reform Action Group formed of ministers of state in Turkey is invited to act upon these recommendations as they undertake the impending reform of Turkey’s judiciary.

To regional actors:

10. European institutions and decision-makers should reinforce these recommendations in their discussions with Turkish ministers in 2019.



Ana Gomes, S&D
Ana Miranda, Greens/EFA
Angela Rosa Vallina de la Noval, GUE/NGL
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, EPP
Anne-Marie Mineur, GUE/NGL
Antanas Guoga, EPP
António Marinho e Pinto, ALDE
Barbara Lochbihler, Greens/EFA
Barbara Spinelli, GUE/NGL
Benedek Javor, Greens/EFA
Boris Zala, S&D
Brando Benifei, S&D
Carolina Punset, ALDE
Costas Mavrides, S&D
David Martin, S&D
Dennis de Jong, GUE/NGL
Dimitrios Papadimoulis, GUE/NGL
Eva Joly, Greens/EFA
Georgi Pirinski, S&D
Helmut Scholz, GUE/NGL
Isabella de Monte, S&D
Jean Lambert, Greens/EFA
Jordi Solé, Greens/EFA
José Bové, Greens/EFA
Josef Weidenholzer, S&D
Jose Inacio Faria, EPP
Josep-Maria Terricabras, Greens/EFA
Julie Ward, S&D
Knut Fleckenstein, S&D
Kostas Chrysogonos, GUE/NGL
Luke Ming Flanagan, GUE/NGL
Margrete Auken, Greens/EFA
Maria Grapini, S&D
Maria Heubuch, Greens/EFA
Mark Demesmaeker, ECR
Maximilien Dardel, GUE/NGL
Merja Kyllönen, GUE/NGL
Monica Macovei, ECR
Petra Kammerevert, S&D
Petras Austrevicius, ALDE
Rebecca Harms, Greens/EFA
Richard Sulík, ECR
Sabine Verheyen, EPP
Tanja Fajon, S&D
Theresa Griffin, S&D
Tilly Metz, Greens/EFA
Vallina de la Noval, GUE/NGL

Other/international organizations
Simone Susskind (Deputy, Brussels Parliament)
The International Press Institute (IPI)
Article 19
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Euro Med Rights
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS)
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
PEN Germany
PEN International
PEN Norway
Wales PEN Cymru