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Ongoing cases

EREN KESKIN

The Vigdis Freedom Foundation has been working with Turkish human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, who has been a target of the Turkish government’s efforts to silence any social or political opposition. Eren has dedicated her life to fighting for the right to freedom of expression in Turkey, as well as dedicating herself as an ally for women survivors of sexual abuse. Eren has been a force for peace and justice in Turkey, which was officially acknowledged in 2004 when she was awarded the Aachen Peace Prize for “her courageous efforts and activities for human rights.”

 

Eren Keskin is a human rights lawyer. She has been co-editor in chief and figurehead of the newspaper Özgür Gündem. Since the failed coup of 2016 she has been considered an “enemy of the state” facing prosecution in 143 cases, mostly related to freedom of expression. The national legal newspaper Özgür Gündem has since been shut down. During the past 20 years Eren Keskin has litigated over five hundred cases against the Turkish government on behalf of women who have been raped or sexually abused in Turkish jails, under custody, and during street demonstrations. She discovered the extent of this abuse when serving a sentence in Turkish prisons in 1995. Since then, she has focused on abuse of power by State officials.
Her work is supported by the United Nations’ Fund for Victims of Torture. While in prison, Amnesty International supported Eren Keskin as a prisoner of conscience

 

Eren Keskin loves Turkey and wants the Turkish Republic to respect fundamental human rights. She has always wanted to make a difference.

Amnesty International’s interview with Eren

Our work with Eren Keskin:

Members of the Vigdis Freedom Foundation travelled on several occasions to Istanbul to meet Eren Keskin and to attend hearings in ongoing cases against Eren Keskin for her affiliation and work with Özgür Gündem, anation-wide newspaper in Turkey that has been shut down after the failed coup.

 

Eren Keskin has approximately 143 cases against her related to her role as a symbolic co-editor for Özgür Gündem. On 8 December 2016 there were two hearings in Istanbul; one in the Heavy Penal Court and one in the Simple Penal Court.

 

On 29 December 2016 the hearing was held in the Assize Court in Istanbul, and it was a joint hearing with nine other defendants Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Inan Kizilkaya, Bilir Kaya, Filiz Kocali, Ragip Zarakolu, Bilge Contepe, Bilge Aykut and Kemal Sancil.

 

On the 29 December the tribunal started the hearing of the case against Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Eren Keskin, Inan Kizilkaya, Bilir Kaya, Filiz Kocali, Ragip Zarakolu, Bilge Contepe, Bilge Aykut and Kemal Sancil.
The police only brought Aslı Erdoğan and Necmiye Alpay from prison; and this was explained by the fact that the police did not have the capacity to bring the others.

 

The courtroom selected for the trial had a maximum capacity of 30 observers, which created an issue as many people –international observers, diplomats, and members of the press—were unable to witness any or all of the trial. Many lawyers were present in order to show their solidarity with the defendants.

 

There were several protests against the fact that each of the defendants were only allowed to be represented by 3 lawyers. Anne Christine witnessed the statements made by Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, and Eren Keskin. During these statements, it was reiterated that these women have been symbolic editors of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, and as such, they should not be personally held responsible for the words written and published in the newspaper. Erdoğan argued that, based on all the things she has written over the years, she is being accused of being a member of a terrorist organization based on only a few sentences.
The tribunal decided to release from arrest Aslı Erdoğan and Necmiye Alpay who had been imprisoned since September 2016.

Ayşenur Parildak

The Vigdis Foundation is working with Aysenur Parildak and her lawyer, İrem Danacıoğlu, on her case against the injustices she has faced in prolonged arbitrary detention due to baseless charges against her.

 

Earlier this year, Anne Christine attended Aysenur’s trial as an international observer in an effort to make it known that the world is watching how the court is mishandling and treating her case. We are also in contact with Aysenur’s lawyer and working on devising plans to support and assist in any way possible. We have heard from İrem that Aysenur’s mental and physical state are suffering during her prolonged detention:

 

Aysenur Parildak is a 27-years-old young female journalist. She is also a student studying law at Ankara University Law Department. She has been deprived of her freedom for almost a year (since Aug. 4, last year).

 

Aysenur Parildak had first been detained and then imprisoned over the conduct of journalism and being active on Twitter. Normally, such activities are seen within the scope of freedom of expression, and media freedom in a democratic country run by the rule of law.

 

Aysenur Parildak was detained on 3 Aug. 2016, over an anonymous tip over allegations of membership to an armed terrorist organization. After having been subjected to inhumane treatment during detention period, she was arrested and sent to Ankara Sincan Female Prison. For her imprisonment, her tweets and working at the Zaman newspaper were cited. It means, “my client was arrested over activities that are regarded normal within the scope of media and freedom of expression in a democratic country governed by rule of law.”

 

Indictment of Aysenur Parildak was prepared on 28 Nov 2016 where she was charged of membership to an armed terrorist organization (Turkish Penal Code, Article 314/2). The activities cited as evidence in the indictment for committing crime are the same with those activities referred for her detention. Feb. 9 was determined as the date of the first hearing after the acceptance of the indictment. During this period, my client’s objection to imprisonment, her demands for release have been rejected on clumsy reasons.

 

Aysenur Parildak told the court that she did not commit a crime such as being a member of an armed terrorist organization, even did not commit any crime; that her activities should be regarded within the line of freedom of expression and media freedom. Despite all our defense, the panel of court judges decided to keep Aysenur Parildak’s imprisoned and set 2 May as the next hearing date.

 

On 2 May 2017, Aysenur Parildak was released in a unanimous decision by court judges. The release was criticized by some people on social media and accusations took place against the court judges who released my client. Upon reaction on social media, the office of prosecutor objected against the release. Prosecutor’s objection was accepted by the panel of judges at Ankara 14th High Criminal Court, and she was again imprisoned. Upon the ruling for re-imprisonment, Aysenur Parildak has not been released from prison. At hearing on July 18, 2017, it was decided for continuity of her pre-trial detention. As a justification, being a ByLock (a smartphone messaging app) user and still being unable to collect evidence
(by the prosecution) were cited. Next hearing was set for 10 Oct. 2017. In this hearing Aysenur Parildak was sentenced to 7,5 years of prison.

PRESS RELEASE, 18 September 2017

The Vigdis Freedom Foundation is proud to announce that its inaugural Shahnoush Award will be given this year to Ayşenur Parildak, a young reporter from the now-closed Zaman newspaper who is among hundreds of journalists and writers jailed after the July 2016 failed military coup attempt in Turkey.

 

Parıldak was arrested on Aug. 11, 2016. She had been covering court stories for Zaman and was also a student at the law faculty of Ankara University. In a letter from prison, she wrote:

 

“I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol […] I am afraid of being forgotten here.”

 

The Shahnoush Award will be given every year to a female prisoner of conscience whose courage has not been internationally acknowledged. By doing so, Vigdis brings attention to the suffering of women who languish behind bars for speaking out and whose human rights have been violated. They are not forgotten; they are not alone. Hope is sometimes the difference between life and death. May the Shanoush Award give hope to those who need it most.

 

This award bears the name of Shahnoush Behzadi, a fifteen-year-old girl who was executed in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran, in the fall of 1981, only weeks after her arrest. Shahnoush had been a friend and classmate of author, human-rights advocate, and member of the Board of Directors at the Vigdis Freedom Foundation, Marina Nemat. Shahnoush was a kind young woman who was loved by her classmates and wanted to make the world a better place. She is buried in a mass grave in Iran.