In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one hundred two prominent politicians, human rights activists, and thinkers from around the globe have called on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Mr Muharrem Erbey, the imprisoned Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), the country’s oldest and largest human rights monitoring group.
 
“The fact that leading human rights defenders like Mr Erbey are being imprisoned for political reasons casts serious doubt on the sincerity of the ruling party’s stated intention to expand democracy in Turkey,” said Ms Estella Schmid, spokesperson for the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, the organisation which prepared the letter-petition to Prime Minister Erdoğan.
 
Mr Erbey, who is a renowned lawyer and published author, was arrested in the early hours of 24 December 2009 as part of so-called anti-terror operations launched simultaneously in 11 Turkish provinces.  Mr Erbey is being charged with membership of a terrorist organization due to speeches he’s given in Europe concerning human rights abuses, and other activities he’s participated in within his capacity as a senior human rights lawyer. 
 
Along with some 1,500 other Kurdish activists and politicians, including elected mayors, Mr Erbey is currently in prison awaiting trial.  Many international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have criticized Mr Erbey’s imprisonment.
 
“The arrest of Muharrem Erbey and the wider wave of repression directed at Kurdish activists and political leaders jeopardizes Turkey’s EU membership bid and undermines prospects for a negotiated solution to the Kurdish issue,” Ms Schmid said.  “International civil society mustn’t be silent in the face of these anti-democratic attacks on lawful and peaceful dissent, especially since Turkey is taking these actions with US and European backing.”

 

Open Letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
 
Appeal against the Prosecution of Imprisoned Kurdish Human Rights Lawyer Muharrem Erbey, Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Association of Turkey

We express our strongest opposition to the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights lawyer Mr Muharrem Erbey, General Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Association (Insan Haklari Derneği – IHD) of Turkey and Chairperson of its Diyarbakır Province Branch.
 
We refer to the charge against Mr Erbey issued by the Diyarbakır Special Heavy Penal Court on December 26, 2009 of “being a member of an illegal organisation” pursuant to Article 314 of the Criminal Code, with reference to Article 220/6 of the Criminal Code in the Law No. 5237. We have had the opportunity to review the record of Mr Erbey’s interrogation and official documentation objecting to the decision to arrest. The accusation that Mr Erbey is a member of the KCK (Kurdish Communities Union) has been made without any proper basis.  We note with grave concern that Mr Erbey has been denied access to the evidence against him and has been subject to illegal search warrants.
 
Questioning by the prosecution of Mr Erbey indicates that he was arrested for his legitimate human rights work conducted within the legal framework of the Human Rights Association and in furtherance of international human rights agreements.  The record of interrogation indicates that the charge was made on the basis of Mr Erbey’s participation in a workshop in Diyarbakır in September 2009 to discuss constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring a greater respect of minorities’ rights.  Further, that Mr Erbey delivered speeches on Kurdish rights to the parliaments of Belgium, Sweden and England.  The charges are also sought to be substantiated on the grounds that Mr Erbey attended the “Kurdish Film Festival” in Italy in 2009 and that he was the legal adviser of the Mayor of Diyarbakir, Mr. Osman Baydemir.
 
The arrest of Mr Erbey is in clear violation of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.  We urge you to ensure that human rights defenders are not subject to unfounded accusations and reprisals because of their human rights work.  We call upon you to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Erbey as well as all other detained human rights defenders.
 
Signed by:

Hélène Flautre, MEP, Chair of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee; Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT; Tony Benn, President, Stop the War Coalition, UK; Prof. Dr. Robert Olson, University of Kentucky, USA; Prof. Dr. Michael Gunter, Tennessee Technical University, USA; Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP; Jean Lambert MEP; Caroline Lukas MEP; Bairbre De Brun MEP, Sinn Fein; Frieda Brepoels, MEP; Lord Rea; Lord Hylton; Lord Wallace; John Austin MP; Hywel Williams MP; Bob Russell MP; David Drew MP; Jeremy Corbyn MP; Mike Mansfield QC; Louise Christian, Human Rights Lawyer; Dafydd Iwan, LL.D., President of Plaid Cymru, Party of Wales; Bruce Kent, Vice-President Pax Christi; Elaine Hagopian, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simmons College, USA; Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Abdol-Karim Lahidji, President of the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Vice President of FIDH; Michael Ellman, Solicitor, ex-Chair, Solicitors International Human Rights Group, FIDH International Board Officer;  Prof. Bill Bowring, President, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (EDLH); Thomas Schmidt, Lawyer, Secretary General of ELDH; Christian Herrgesell, Commissioner for Prisoners, Foundation for Basic Rights and Democracy, Germany; Joseph K. Grieboski, Chairman of The Institute on Religion and Public Policy, USA; Mr. Eric Sottas, Secretary-General of the World Organisation Against Torture; Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Alex Wilks, Lawyer; Dr. Victoria Sentas, School of Law, King’s College London; Frances Webber, Human Rights Lawyer, Vice-President of Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Mario Lana, President, Forensic Union for the Protection of Human Rights, Italy; Margaret Owen, Director, Widows for Peace through Democracy, International Human Rights Lawyer; Francisco Soberón Garrido, Executive Director, Human Rights Association of Peru; Nick Hildyard, Policy Analyst; Desmond Fernandes, Genocide Scholar and Author; Dr. Felix Padel, Anthropologist; Ara Sarafian, Historian; Professor Ben Bowling, School of Law, King’s College London; Dr. David Whyte, School of Sociology and Social Policy, Liverpool University; Sugin Praisoody, Lawyer; Les Levidow, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC); Jonathan Bloch, Author and LibDem Councillor; Khatchatur I. Pilikian, Prof of Music & Art; Robert Brown MSP; Marlyn Glen MSP; Ken Macintosh MSP; Elaine Smith MSP; Michael Matheson MSP; Christina McKelvie MSP; Dr. Bill Wilson MSP; Cathy Peattie MSP; Richard Haley, Secretary, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities; Stephen Smellie, UNISON Public Sector Trade Union, Scottish Committee; Roger Tompkins, international lawyer (retired), Cyprus; Prof. Dr. Raimund Rütten, Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Joachim Rollhauser, Lawyer, Greece; Maria Paradeisi Assistant Professor, Panteion University, Athens, Greece; Katerina Papagika, doctor, Greece; Dimitris Stergiopoulos, student, Greece; Iosifina Iakovidou, Doctoral Student, Greece; Dimitris Tsirkas, Student, Greece; Stratis Bournazos, Journalist, Greece; Giorgos Karatzas, Human Rights Activist, Greece; Manolis Hatiris, Doctoral Student, Greece; Internationalist magazine "Resistencias"; Kurdish Federation UK; Janroj Keles, Research Fellow, London Metropolitan University; Kelly Stuart, Playwright and Lecturer at Columbia University; Mustafa Gundogdu, Turkey and Iraq Desk Officer, Kurdish Human Rights Project, England; Carla van Os, Human Rights Lawyer, The Hague; Sally Eberhardt, Producer, New York Kurdish Film Festival; Daniel Steinvorth, Turkey Correspondent, Der Spiegel; Karim Hassan, Independent Kurdish Scholar, Canada; Dr. Edel Hughes, School of Law, University of Limerick, Ireland; Kevin McKiernan, Author and Filmmaker; Jesse McLaren, Vice-Chair, Santa Cruz County Chapter, American Civil Liberties Organization, Santa Cruz, USA; Hugo Charlton, Barrister;  Anna Karamanou, Former MEP, Greece; Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), Canada Chapter; Wolfgang Betrup, Theologian, President, ACAT-Germany; Natsumi Ajiki, Kurdish Herald Editorial Board; Nasser Amin, General Director, Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP), Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Helene Jaffe, Founder and President, Association for Victims of Repression in Exile, France; Danial Saoud, President, Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedoms, and Human Rights in Syria; Manuel Lambert, Legal Counsel, Human Rights League, Belgium;  Nicole Filion, Coordinator, League of Rights and Freedoms, Canada; Margarita Lacabe, Executive Director, Derechos Human Rights, USA; Margaret Riley, teacher, South Korea; Tunisian Council for Liberties; Abdulla Alderazi, Secretary General, Bahrain Human Rights Society; Ezzadine Alasbhi, Chairman, Human Rights Information and Training Centre, Yemen; Tunisian Council for Liberties; Guillermo Presa Suaŕez, Lawyer, Observatory for the Defense of Rights and Liberties, Galicia, Spain; Gilberto Pagani, President, European Democratic Lawyers; Hans Gaasbeek, President of the Dutch chapter, Lawyers Without Borders; Yiannis Rachiotis, Lawyer, Greece; Eugenia Kouniaki, Lawyer, Greece.
 
 
For more information, contact:

Jake Hess
Human rights activist and friend of Muharrem Erbey
Email: [email protected] <outbind://20-00000000ADBAFB69218E7E42B7599BD0B622FB2D0700D7C9D98D3C465C49A5E5C2E92961032A0000001D297E0000E78ABD8E71DD9F4E99B07985C1004FBC00000429B4100000/[email protected]>
 
Estella Schmid
Peace in Kurdistan: Campaign for a Political Solution of the Kurdish Question
Patrons: Lord Avebury, John Austin MP, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP,  Julie Christie, Gareth Peirce, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas
Tel: 020 7586 5892 Fax: 020 7483 2531
E-mail: [email protected]

 

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