The Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU) examined 118 prosecution indictments in detail, one from each of Turkey’s 81 provinces. It was found that in these indictments, the ordinary legal activities of hundreds of thousands of people were considered as crimes, and irrational conspiracy theories were used.
FIDU, an organization that advocates for and promotes human rights at the national and international level, prepared a new report titled “Dangers of Unlimited Prosecutorial Discretion: Prosecuting Terror Crimes in Post-Coup Turkey.”
The report, prepared by Dr. Emre Turkut and lawyers Ali Yıldız and Kevin Dent KC, sheds light on the practices of prosecutors in Turkey, particularly after July 15, 2016. It revealed that counterterrorism and security tools in Turkey are being disturbingly abused.
According to the international report, the ordinary legal activities of hundreds of thousands of people were considered as crimes, evidence was not consistently presented, logical connections were not established between suspects and alleged crimes, a heavily political/ideological language was used in the indictments, irrational conspiracy theories were employed, reasonable doubt was not sought, and the presumption of innocence was reversed.
SERIOUS DEVIATIONS FROM THE LAW
FIDU listed the 18 most frequently used criteria for charges within the scope of counterterrorism legislation and expressed their “concerns” about the practices of prosecutors in terrorism cases.
The following “indictment criteria” in the investigations related to the Gülen movement were listed in the report:
- Using or downloading the ByLock messaging application,
- Being a manager or member of a union that was closed or suspended within the scope of the State of Emergency (OHAL) due to alleged links with the movement,
- Subscribing to periodicals that were closed or suspended within the scope of OHAL due to alleged links with the movement,
- Donating to aid organizations alleged to be connected to the movement,
- Supporting opposition parties or criticizing the government for human rights violations,
- Carrying a US dollar banknote,
- Traveling abroad,
- Anonymous tips/informants or secret witness statements
The report emphasized that the practices of prosecutors have deviated even further from basic national and international standards and that there has been a worrying increase in considering the ordinary legal activities of hundreds of thousands of people as crimes.
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ARE AWARE
The report noted that these practices have led to various decisions, judgments, and opinions condemning Turkey’s post-coup practices from major international human rights bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD).
The Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU) called on Turkish prosecutors in the report to “write the indictments in a simple and concise language, clearly explain the factual and legal basis of the charges, establish a coherent and logical connection between the evidence and the charges, consider evidence in favor of the suspect, refrain from resorting to irrational conspiracies and conspiracy theories, and show respect for human dignity and protect human rights while performing their duties.”
The report highlighted that the problem stems from the ambiguous wording of Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and that neither Article 314 of the TCK nor other legal provisions related to counterterrorism in Turkey provide a clear definition of membership in an armed terrorist organization.
GÜLEN MOVEMENT AS THE PRIMARY TARGET
Emre Turkut, one of the authors of the report, stated that the Erdogan government created a significant pressure environment after July 15 and that the primary target of this pressure was the Gülen movement. Turkut noted that Erdogan expanded and intensified this pressure over time to encompass all political opponents and dissenting voices in the country, including members of the Kurdish political movement and other religious groups.
Professor Antonio Stango, President of the Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU), said, “The report clearly demonstrates that the definition of ‘terrorism’ in Turkish legislation is very vague and broad and is applied extensively to tens of thousands of people, depriving them of basic human rights…”
Elizabeth M. Munisoğlu, retired Court Commissioner of the California Supreme Court, made the following assessment regarding the report: “The authors have meticulously documented the practices of Turkish prosecutors that overturn justice and evade logic and facts, as seen in the language of their indictments.”
You can access the report through this link.