Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

"Cut out images of the individuals in coloured filters along the bottom of the image. Background is a blur of colours and the text reads: "Justice prevails! Rights defenders' unfair convictions finally overturned". Amnesty logo top right. "


Four human rights defenders, including two former Amnesty Türkiye leaders, spent five years fighting fabricated “terrorism” charges in Türkiye. On June 6 2023, after an inpsiring global campaign, all of their convictions were finally overturned and they can begin to live their lives, free of judicial harassment.

Özlem Dalkıran, one of those who had beenconvicted, said:

“Trying to silence human rights defenders through judicial harassment never works anywhere in the world. Because we are right, not them! We have massive resilience that is powered by our struggle to defend justice and the rights of everyone and everything that we share this planet with.”

While this is good news, the ruling shows the true purpose of such politically motivated prosecutions: using the courts as a weapon to silence critical voices. We will continue to fight against the relentless curtailing of human rights in Türkiye, and with those who refuse to be silenced by the government’s threats.

What happened - Timeline of Events?

Taner Kılıç, then chair of Amnesty Türkiye, was arrested on 6 June 2017. Three days later he was jailed on charges of being a member of what the government call the 'Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation'. Without any evidence, the authorities claimed that Taner had downloaded a messaging app the government says was used by the group to communicate. He is not a member of this organisation and never downloaded the app in question.

Then on 5 July İdil Esser – the then director of Amnesty Türkiye – and nine other human rights defenders were arrested at a hotel where they were on a workshop for well-being and digital security. The authorities accused them of taking part in a secret meeting. Eight of the ten defenders were jailed on the basis of these allegations.

İdil Eser, Günal Kurşun, Özlem Dalkıran, Veli Acu, Ali Gharavi, Peter Steudtner, Nalan Erkem and İlknur Üstün spent 99 days in pre-trial detention before they were released on bail in October 2017. Taner spent 432 days in jail before being released on bail in November 2019.

The trial was then postponed several times for several reasons until finally a verdict was given on 3 July 2020. An appeal brought by Taner, Idil, Günal and Özlem was rejected in November 2020 without reason. 

In March 2022, a prosecutor from Türkiye’s Court of Cassation asked for İdil, Günal and Özlem’s convictions to be overturned, but for Taner’s to be upheld. Once again, no explanation was provided for this request.   

In May 2022, the European Court reaffirmed that the authorities in Turkey did not have “any reasonable suspicion that Taner Kılıç had committed an offence”. It also found that his pre-trial detention under terrorism-related charges was “directly linked to his activity as a human rights defender”. This binding decision became final in October.

In November 2022, Turkey's highest appeals court overturned baseless convictions of all four human rights defenders. While this is a huge relief to be celebrated for İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, the case of Taner Kılıç’s was disappointingly quashed only on the grounds of ‘incomplete investigation’ and referred back to the first instance court.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, has said that “such politically-motivated prosecutions" use "the courts as a weapon to silence critical voices".

In June 2023, the convictions of each of the four human rights defenders were finally overturned.