Aytül Uçar, who has been working at the İzmir Representative Office of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) for 23 years, was detained on February 3rd, 2021 during the protest of the President’s designation of the Boğaziçi University rector. Two separate lawsuits were filed against Uçar for “defamation of the President” and “defiance of the Law no 2911”. Aytül Uçar is currently awaiting trial.
Aytül Uçar is a civil society professional and has been a rights defender since her youth. She was born on May 1st, 1974 in Elazığ and moved to İzmir with her family when she was four. She comes from a Kurdish-Alevi family from Dersim. She received her upper education in social services. She joined the Women’s Committee of the Izmir branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) after graduating from high school in 1992.
The assassination of Musa Anter that same year was a turning point for Uçar. She sees the Sivas Massacre of 1993 as another turning/transformation point for her. Besides the Human Rights Association, Uçar has also worked for the Pir Sultan Abdal Foundation. She worked for the Izmir branch of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers for two years. Since 1999, she has been working as the medical secretary for the Izmir branch of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV).
On February 3rd, 2021, Aytül Uçar was amongst the detainees of the police intervention during the press statement in Izmir protesting the President’s designation of the Boğaziçi University rector. Following her detention, she was served with two separate lawsuits one year apart. Uçar, along with two others (Emine Akbaba and İrem Çelikbaş), was initially sued for the allegation of “defaming the President” at the 41st Criminal Court of First Instance of Izmir. The indictment offered as evidence the testimonies of the deputy police chief and a police officer that were present at the vehicle holding the detainees.
The first session of the trial that was to take place on November 18th, 2021 was postponed because the presiding judge was on leave. The second lawsuit was filed on February 14th, 2022, on the allegations of “Defiance of the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations”, “Defamation”, “Unlawful Assembly After Having Been Warned to Disperse”, and “Resistance to Prevent Police Duty”. Once again the testimonies of eight police officers were on the indictment acknowledged by the 49th Criminal Court of First Instance on February 14th, 2022. The police officer plaintiffs claimed to have been battered and injured by the six defendants including Uçar.
The first hearing of the case was held on April 15, 2022. Aytül Uçar identified the police officer who tortured her in the audience section of the courtroom. Following Uçar's statement, the lawyers demanded that the police officer be identified and removed from the hall. However, this request of the lawyers was denied. After the statements were taken, the case was adjourned to 24 June 2022.
On the other hand, Aytül Uçar describes the events of that day as follows: “There was one lawyer present in the detainee vehicle when I was brought there and another lawyer was brought while I was there. Both of them were detained as they were pleading to the officers to show mercy on the other detainees. As the detainees were being battered and handcuffed from the rear, we naturally demanded that the police treat them humanely and follow pandemic protocols. Then they threatened to handcuff all of us from the rear. The circumstances that were already tense kept getting worse due to the agitation from the police. It was impossible for us to be silent in that vehicle in the light of all that we had been taught by our struggle against torture and our knowledge of how to treat and document torture victims. As I was there, I simultaneously “observed” all that was happening as a person that had not only witnessed but also contributed to reporting, photographing, archiving, and preparing statistics of such misconduct. It was an unfortunate but valuable observation, although I wish never to have witnessed it. The harsh police intervention I saw that day should never have been experienced by anyone on those vehicles.”
The fourth hearing of the lawsuit, which was filed with the allegation of insulting the President, was held on September 2, 2022. It was noteworthy that the police affiliated to the İzmir Police Department Security Branch also watched the hearing at the İzmir 41st Criminal Court of First Instance. The court board demanded that a warrant be written to the Izmir Police Department so that one of the witness policemen would be present at the next hearing, and to ask whether there was a camera recording of the day of the incident.
At the hearing on December 9, the prosecutor read his opinion. He demanded that Aytül Uçar be punished separately in accordance with Articles 299/1-2 (insulting the President) and Article 53, 58 of the TCK. Accepting the request for additional time against the opinion, the court adjourned the next hearing to 30 December 2022.
While the court acquitted Aytül Uçar, the court sentenced Emine Akbaba and İrem Çelikbaş to 1 year and 2 months in prison for "insulting the president" and postponed the sentence to 11 months and 20 days.
The fourth hearing of the lawsuit filed for "opposition to Law No. 2911" was held on January 13, 2023, at the 49th Criminal Court of First Instance in İzmir. Witnesses described police brutality. The case was adjourned to 12 May 2023 to hear other witnesses.
At the decision hearing of this case on October 11, 2023, the court acquitted Aytül Uçar and lawyer Erdoğan Akdoğdu of all charges, but sentenced other rights defenders to various prison terms on the grounds of "Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations" and "Resisting to Not Perform Their Duty" . The court also ruled to postpone the announcement of the verdict for some defendants.
A total of 104 people were detained at the demonstrations held in Izmir on the 1st, 3rd and 5th of February, and many of them have filed complaints at the Human Rights Foundation for being subjected to torture and mistreatment during their detention.