Turkish court postpones verdict for German rights activist | News | DW | 19.02.2020
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Turkish court postpones verdict for German rights activist

Eleven defendants, including Germany's Peter Steudtner, gave final statements a day after philanthropist Osman Kavala was re-arrested, just hours after a court acquitted him. The verdict had been expected on Wednesday.

German rights activist Peter Steudtner (Reuters/Y. Akgul)

Peter Steudtner after being released from prison in 2017

A Turkish court on Wednesday postponed issuing a verdict for German human rights activist Peter Steudtner and 10 other activists being charged with "supporting terrorism" in Turkey. 

While the defendants issued their final statements and a final ruling was initially expected today, the court said it would instead issue a verdict on April 3. 

Rights groups have criticized the charges and subsequent trial as baseless. 

Steudtner was arrested in July 2017 on an island off the coast of Istanbul while participating in a workshop with Amnesty International staff, lawyers and women's rights activists. He and the group were arrested and subsequently accused of supporting terrorist organizations. 

The arrest of Steudtner and other German nationals in 2017 fruther strained diplomatic ties between Turkey and Germany.

Watch video 05:56

German activist opens up about time in Turkish jail

Three months after his arrest, Steudtner was released on bail and returned to Germany immediately — but his trial went ahead. In November 2019, the public prosecutor requested an acquittal for lack of evidence.

Read morePeter Steudtner: Detained activists in Turkey face 'unfair' judicial system

The prosecution has used handouts on how to communicate securely by email, and the use of an encrypted mobile messaging application as evidence to substantiate the charges against the activists, saying that the application was used to communicate with members of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen's network.

The Turkish government has accused Gulen and his supporters of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt.

Steudtner is part of a group of 10 other rights activists, includingAmnesty International's former Turkey chief Taner Kilic, Amnesty's director Idil Eser, and Swedish national Ali Gharavi, who are set to receive verdicts. All 11 defendants, who are no longer in custody, have rejected the accusations made against them.

"For justice to be done, all 11 must be acquitted," Amnesty International said in a statement. "They should never have been investigated, let alone imprisoned or prosecuted."

Germany's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that it was closely watching the case against Kilic and the "Istanbul 10."

Watch video 01:34

Turkish activists acquitted, Osman Kavala re-arrested

'Vindictive' arrest

The defendants gave their final statements a day after Turkish prosecutors ordered Osman Kavala, a prominent philanthropist, to be jailed for alleged ties to a 2016 coup attempt, just hours after he was released from prison after 840 days. Kavala was acquitted of terrorism-related charges over the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul.

Read moreTurkey: Osman Kavala kept in jail despite European human rights court ruling

Human Rights Watch dubbed Kavala's re-arrest as "vindictive and lawless."

"We are aghast at the re-arrest of Osman Kavala, right after his acquittal," the German Foreign Ministry tweeted, calling for a "swift clarification in compliance with all rule of law standards to which Turkey has committed."

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lc/ng (dpa, epd, AP)

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