The trial of Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair and lawyer Öztürk Türkdoğan for "membership of a [terrorist / illegal] organization" began at the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court today (February 22).

As reported by Mezopotamya Agency (MA), İHD Co-Chair Eren Keskin, Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD), Progressive Lawyers' Association (ÇHD), Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Kocaeli MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and representatives from several political parties and civil society organizations followed the first hearing in the capital city.

'This unlawfulness has to end'

The hearing began after the identity check. Taking the floor at the hearing, Öztürk Türkdoğan briefly stated the following:

"İHD is a democratic mass organization and it has, from time to time, been among the democratic mass organizations. With this court case filed against me, they want to intimidate human rights advocates, our association and us. I think the case against me was filed by the Interior Ministry.

"I am a human rights defender. The legal and democratic activities I did have been cited as a justification in the indictment. I will keep on doing human rights activities. This unlawfulness must end."

'The indictment is undue'

Taking the floor at the hearing, lawyer Kerem Altıparmak said that the indictment should be returned:

"Accepting the indictment means violating our client's rights. The indictment that has been prepared is undue; our client should be acquitted immediately. The indictment has been prepared with copy-paste."

Keskin: Do you have evidence?

Lawyer and İHD Co-Chair Eren Keskin also said:

"I don't remember a period when we, as lawyers, felt as defenseless as we do now. We have come to this trial by getting prepared and you are disregarding us. The decision you give today is an open violation of the right of defense. The Ministry of Interior summarizes everything quite clearly by saying, 'Let's do it first; let the judiciary follow.' Turkey signed international conventions and it is violating all international conventions.

"In this trial, we are trying to explain that a human rights advocate is not a member of an armed organization.

"We are rights defenders. Do you have evidence suggesting that he is a member of an armed organization? This means a violation of freedom of expression. We demand acquittal in the domestic law."

Following the defense statements, the court board has ruled that Öztürk Türkdoğan's international travel ban shall remain in effect.

The next hearing will be held on April 19, 2022.