Press release

Turkey: Reverse the Terrorism Conviction of Human Rights Defender Mehmet Raci Bilici

In light of the sentencing of Mehmet Raci Bilici, former chair of the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned about the Turkish government’s ongoing practice of targeting human rights defenders with terrorism-related charges,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Freedom House’s Europe and Eurasia programs. “We believe the charges against Bilici are unwarranted, as it is clear that they are based on his legitimate human rights work and not on any credible link to terrorism. We call on the appeals court to overturn his conviction and dismiss the charges. The state must protect the freedoms of association and expression instead of attacking them by misusing allegations of terrorism.”

Background:

On March 12, 2020, Mehmet Raci Bilici was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The original indictment pointed to his attendance of meetings of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) between 2011 and 2014. Bilici, who is a national board member of the IHD and the former chair of the organization’s Diyarbakır branch, has documented human rights violations throughout southeastern Turkey since 2000. For this work, he has been repeatedly detained, threatened, and placed under surveillance by local authorities. Should the verdict be upheld on appeal, Bilici would be stripped of his ability to practice law in Turkey in addition to the prison sentence.

Turkey is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019.