"The Free Yagmurdereli Campaign "

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FREE !!!!!


On January 18 the High Criminal Court in northern Samsun province decided to release prominent human rights activist Esber Yagmurdereli from prison under the terms of a partial amnesty agreed late last year.

The government issued an amnesty law in late December that has freed some 20,000 of Turkey"s 70,000-strong prison population.

Hakan Tekin, Yagmurdereli's lawyer, immediately applied to the Chief Public Prosecutor in Samsum for a review of his case under the terms of the latest amnesty. On 18 January 2001, the High Criminal Court n° 1 examined the application and decided unanimously to release Yagmurdereli from prison.

The constitutional court earlier the same week said it would consider whether to expand the partial amnesty, which has been criticised for releasing common criminals while leaving leftist political prisoners behind bars, after appeals by prisoners. The verdict was sent to the Cankiri Prison in which Yagmurdereli was imprisoned. Tekin added that he would leave for Cankiri province to carry out legal proceedings.

Esber Yagmurdereli was jailed since June 1998on charges of "spreading separatist propaganda" in a speech about Turkey"s conflict with rebels in the country"s mainly Kurdish southeast. Yagmurdereli was serving the remainder of a life sentence from which he had been conditionally released in 1991. He was first sentenced in 1978 on various accusations of hiding stolen goods, leading an armed robbery, and membership in an illegal organisation. He was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment, for "trying to change the constitutional order by force." His friends and colleagues were in no doubt that the case against him had been framed as a way to silence him and halt his legal and literary activities. In 1991, the remainder of his term was suspended, on condition that he never be convicted again.

However, no sooner was he free, than he gave a speech at a human rights Meeting in Istanbul criticising the authorities for its poor human rights record, particularly against the Kurdish population. His words were construed, under the Anti-Terror Law, as dissemination of "separatist propaganda" and after a protracted legal process, a ten-month sentence against him was confirmed. He was jailed again on October 20, 1997 but, three weeks later, after suffering a minor heart complaint and bronchitis, he was again released. His arrest was re-ordered in January 1998 and, despite international protests on his behalf, he was returned to jail on June 1, 1998.

His imprisonment has drawn sharp criticism from members of the European Union, which has recognised Turkey as a candidate for membership while expressing deep reservations about the country"s human rights record.

Esber Yagmurdereli is the 2000 winner of the Sixth International Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize, given every two years by the Human Rights Institute of the Bar of Bordeaux and the European Lawyers' Union. The award was received by his son Ugur Yagmurdereli at the Ceremony in Bordeaux, France on September 29.

Please, Join us in the "Free Yagmurdereli Campaign" and ask for immediate release of Esber Yagmurdereli.

Esber Yagmurdereli's imprisonment is in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Turkey is a signatory to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In failing to guarantee Esber Yagmurdereli his fundamental right of freedom of expression Turkey is in breach of Article 10. The failure to guarantee a fair trial has contravened Article 6.


Please, ask for immediate release of Esber Yagmurdereli.

1) Please write politely worded letters to the Turkish authorities listed below telling that Esber Yagmurdereli's imprisonment constitutes a violation of Turkey’s obligation under Article 6, 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a contravention of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Urge that legislation criminalizing human rights advocacy and non-violent free-expression, should be revised. Express concern that while he is in prison Esber Yagmurdereli should receive all necessary medical attention .

Appeals to:

Copies to :

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
Cankaya, Ankara
Republic of Turkey
Fax: (+90) 312 417 0476

E-mail :

Prof. Dr. Hikmet Sami Turk
Minister of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi
Cankaya, Ankara
Republic of Turkey
Fax : (+90) 312 417 3954

M. Director General

of Council of Europe

and Human Rights Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ankara, Republic of Turkey

Fax: (+90) 312 287 1581

2) Write to the new President of the turkish Republic

Ahmet Necdet Sezer

the former head of the Constitutional Court elected on May 5, 2000



His message has consistently underlined the need for greater freedom of expression and better democratic standards. In his first statement as president-elect, Sezer again spoke on the same theme. "At the basis of all of Turkey's problems is the practice of not abiding by the rules and the lack of institutionalization," he told a news conference. "In society and in politics, democracy is not sufficiently developed. A tradition of democracy has not been established", Sezer said.

Write him to ask for immediate release of Esber Yagmurdereli.

Président Ahmet Necdet Sezer

Turkish Republic Presidency,

Cumhur Baskanligi,

06 100 Ankara,

Fax : 90 312 427 13 30


3) In addition, please send copies of your letters to your country's ambassador to Turkey, as well as to the Turkish embassy in your country and ask for an appointment to discuss his case in more detail. When there, you can argue three things. First, given normal procédures for remission for good behaviour in Turkey, Esber bas now served out his 10-month term for the speech he gave in Istanbul in 1991. Second, the original life sentence against him was handed down in a trial much criticised by human rights experts on unconvincing evidence that he was guilty of anything other than peacefully expressing his opinions. Third, if Turkey wishes to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the human rights of all its citizens, Esber Yagmurdereli should now be unconditionally freed.


His Excellency Président Ahmet Necdet Sezer

Turkish Republic Presidency,

Cumhur Baskanligi,

06 100 Ankara,


His Excellency Bulent Ecevit
Prime Minister

Cankaya, Ankara
Republic of Turkey

Date: ____________

Dear President,


Dear Prime Minister,

I would like to express my concern over the case of Mr. Esber Yagmurdereli, a lawyer and human rights activist currently serving a sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment.

Mr. Yagmurdereli was arrested on June 1, 1998 and sentenced to 10 months in prison for a speech he made in 1991 on the status of the Kurdish population in Turkey. This sentence reactivated a lifprevious sentence he had received in 1978 after an unfair trial, which was suspended in 1991 on condition that he did not commit any further offences of a political nature.

I believe Mr. Yagmurdereli is one of a group of Turkish citizens who, by confronting the state publicly on the issue of freedom of expression, have put their own liberty at risk.

I consider Mr. Yagmurdereli a prisoner of conscience, detained only for exercising his right to fredom of expression in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

I have been pleased to know that his commitment to human rights was acknowledged when in March he was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.

Therefore I respectfully ask for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Yagmurdereli and for legal reforms preventing restrictions to freedom of expression.

In September 1999, the Turkish government granted an amnesty which allowed some writers and journalists to be freed from prison. However, the amnesty did not apply to Yagmurdereli because he spoke, rather than wrote, his comments about Kurdish rights.

Taking into account his previous prison term, Yagmurdereli has been in and out of jail for 21 years. As we understand, Yagmurdereli has merely expressed his views peacefully and, as a lawyer, defended other individuals who have been prosecuted under Turkish law.

Reportedly, Yagmurdereli has been suffering from hypertension and stomach problems, among other ailments, during his latest period of incarceration.

Releasing Yagmurdereli would signal that your government is committed to a path towards a full and fair democracy and made the choice of Europe. It would be warmly welcomed by human rights advocates worldwide.

While thanking you for your attention I remain,

Sincerely yours.


We look forward to your reply.



Please print:
Name: ______________________________

Address: _____________________________

City: __________________ Prov: _________

Postal Code: ____________

Country: ______________________________

4) Please, Write also to Mr Günter Verheugen, E U Enlargement Commissioner in Brussels

Tell  :

That, as stated in 1993, at the Copenhagen European Council, E U membership requires that the candidate country has achieved " stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities ".

That Turkey's candidacy bid has until now been hampered by concerns among EU states over its human rights record.

That the European Commission accepted that Turkey be considered for membership candidacy at the Helsinki summit of December 1999 but that serious shortcomings are existing in Ankara's human rights record and protection of minorities.

That Turkey violates freedom of expression eoropean standards and refuses to grant minority rights such as education in their own language to its Kurdish population, arguing that to do so would undermine equality among its citizens

That Esber Yagmurdereli's imprisonment constitutes a violation of Turkey’s obligation under Article 6, 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a contravention of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and that Yagmurdereli’s and aother political prisoners release must be the first step before examining the Turkey’s candidacy.

Urge that turkish legislation criminalizing human rights advocacy and non-violent free-expression, should be revised.

Appeals to :

Günter Verheugen
Enlargement Commissioner
Commission européenne
200, rue de la Loi
B-1049 Bruxelles
Telephone : (32 2) 299 11 11
E mail :
5) You can write also letters to Esber Yagmurdereli, sending congratulations for he is elected for the 6 th " Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights Prize ".

Although Esber is blind, fellow inmates of his will be able to read him your messages of support. His address is: Çankiri Cezaevi, Çankiri, Turkey.

6) You can also join the "PEN International Writers in Prison" Campaign for Esber Yagmurdereli by clicking on the following link:

  • October 12, 2000 : Czech President Vaclav Havel calls for release of Esber Yagmurdereli" :

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