Europe Newsletter March 2024

First some good news : Our Europe team has four country coordinators again : Lucja Jastrzebska has joined us and she will be taking over the work on Central Europe, while Ulrike will focus on the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. Welcome Lucja! She will cover the Baltic republics, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Ulrike will focus on Romania, Bulgaria, Former Yugoslavia , Greece and the El Hiblu 3 case.


Saturday Mothers

Emblematic case in Protect the Protest Global Campaign.

Global day of action planned for 25 May

As  you will be aware, because of the increasing pressure on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly there, Türkiye is one of the 10 focus countries in Amnesty’s global Protect the Protest campaign. In respect of Türkiye the two particular areas for campaigning on this issue have been identified as supporting local Prides (the main focus in 2023) and the Saturday Mothers vigils.

Time and again, the Saturday Mothers have been met with brutal crackdowns and even prosecutions for taking part in peaceful vigils. What is most strange about this is that they are not actually protesting about anything the current regime has done but about historic injustices. The Turkish authorities have never provided a valid justification for their unlawful denial of the right to exercise freedom of expression and assembly.

For several years we have been campaigning on their behalf because of the prosecution of 46 of those indicted in 2021 following their brutal arrests 2018. They are still facing the charges of ‘refusing to disperse despite warnings.’ The prosecution continues and what is supposed to be the “final” hearing in the case is due to take place in Istanbul on 5 April.

In November 2023, and after several advocacy meetings with the Governor of Istanbul, the group secured a partial victory, that ten representatives would be allowed to meet in front of the barriers on the square for a brief statement. The blockade on the square was not lifted but the detentions ended. This is the current situation. Saturday Mothers/People continue to demand that the blockade on Galatasaray Sq is lifted and we continue to support their call.

However, now, 20 people who were detained as result of attempting to hold a vigil on 10 June 2023 are facing a new prosecution under the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations and the first hearing in the case took place on 27 February. As is all too often the case in these situations, this was inconclusive and we now await the date for further hearing.

Global Day of Action

The 1000th vigil of the Saturday Mothers will take place on 25 May, and Amnesty is hoping to stage a global day of action on or around that day to publicise this case. Ideas are being worked up in AI sections around the world and I would welcome any ideas you have for how we might draw attention to the Saturday Mothers in the UK.

Given the “optics” of the Saturday Mothers vigils and the way in which the similar Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protests in Argentina gained considerable sympathy amongst constituencies outside the usual human rights activist communities, I wonder whether we should be seeking to involve some other women’s groups we would not normally seek to engage with e.g. the Women’s Institute, Soroptimists, National Association of Women’s organisations etc.  If anyone has ideas about what might be appropriate organisations do let me know……. and NO, of course I am not suggesting that this is an issue in which we should not engage men but I am simply seeking a new angle on seeking allies for campaigning on this case.

I would be pleased to receive comments about this suggestion or any other suggestions about how we might contribute to the global day of action at my usual e-mail address:

Gezi 7


gezi 7

They Must be Immediately and Unconditionally Released #FreeTheGezi7

As I reported in the newsletter in October 2023, on 28 September the Court of Cassation confirmed the convictions of Prisoners of Conscience (PoCs) Osman Kavala, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Mine Özerden and Çiğdem Mater and overturned the convictions of PoCs Mücella Yapıcı and Hakan Altınay (and an eighth defendant Yiğit Ekmekçi) for lack of evidence.

In a hearing in Istanbul on 21 February, which was held to determine whether the initial trial court would accept the Court of Cassation’s (CoC) September ruling, the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No 13 (IHPC13) complied with the CoC decision overturning the convictions of Mücella Yapıcı, Hakan Altınay and Yiğit Ekmekçi and lifted the judicial control orders against them. This is a much welcome outcome which means these three are not threatened with further imprisonment as part of this prosecution.

However, the IHPC13 court, in accordance with the CoC ruling, decided to write to the Istanbul Security Directorate to request information about the availability of any video footage, including CCTV, from the Gezi Park protests. The court also ruled to request information from the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding any ongoing investigations and criminal prosecutions against the three defendants for alleged violations of Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. Any information about these requests will be the subject of the next hearing which will be held on 22 May 2024.

So whilst this development is very welcome, it is not yet the end of the process for Mücella, Hakan and Yiğit. This is a typical development in human rights cases in Türkiye where even acquittal in one court, on one set of charges does not leave defendants completely free but potentially leaves them open to further prosecutions thus leaving them looking over their shoulders and not able to pursue their normal lives.

The situation regarding the 5 Gezi 7 defendants (PoCs Osman Kavala, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Mine Özerden and Çiğdem Mater) who are still in prison is as follows:

Since the CoC upheld their convictions the applications to the Constitutional Court of four of them (Osman Kavala, Tayfun Kahraman, Mine Özerden and Çiğdem Mater) are still pending. Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled twice in favour of Can Atalay’s release from prison following his election to represent Hatay province in the Turkish Parliament in the May 2023 legislative elections. However the trial court (the same Heavy Penal Court No 13) referred the decisions to the Court of Cassation 3rd Chamber, which in turn refused to implement the binding Constitutional Court decisions!!

The only domestic legal avenue left in their case is the pending and possible future Constitutional Court applications but it is hard to see how even positive decisions by the Constitutional Court would lead to their release from prison; in light of the example regarding Can Atalay in which the Constitutional Court was following case law (regarding former imprisoned members of parliament). Atalay’s MP status was removed in January, although this is subject to further appeals.

In addition, Türkiye is also refusing to implement the binding European Court of Human Rights rulings in the case of Osman Kavala, including as part of the infringement proceedings that were initiated in July 2022.

Unfortunately, this entrenched situation is leaving very little room for positive developments in the case of Osman Kavala or the other four PoCs. The International Secretariat is still in discussion with the relatives and lawyers of the five PoCs about next steps and I will share any news and campaigning proposals as soon as I have it.

2.   Feedback

Amidst the gloom and sheer intractability surrounding the Gezi 7 case I thought I should share with you what I consider to be an inspirational message from Osman Kavala as its demonstrates the amazing capacity for resilience in the human spirit even in situations that must, at times, seem hopeless. Mike Warren from East Devon has been tireless in sending solidarity messages to the Gezi 7 and, like a number of you, has been receiving responses. Below is the message he received from Osman Kavala a couple of weeks ago.

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your message.

Indeed, Mucella, Hakan, and Yigit have now become free persons! Two girls, Cigdem and Mine and three of us here (myself, Tayfun and Can – who was elected an MP) are waiting for the decision of the Constitutional Court. This may take place within one or two months. Then we will have a better understanding how long this turmoil will continue.

Spring has almost come. Sparrows started to visit my yard in order to place themselves in the nests which remained from the last year. They bring joy!

All the Best, Osman

Our solidarity work on cases like these might sometimes feel tediously repetitive but it is incredibly important to prisoners. Thank you to all of you who have been taking part and if you have not yet done so, here are the relevant addresses that you need to get started.


El Hiblu 3    Solidarity Action

As I have written in the last Newsletter, after 4 years of waiting, the Maltese Attorney General has issued a bill of indictment on terrorism charges to Abdalla, Amara and Kader.
Amnesty’s researcher Elisa de Pietro says:

“It is a travesty of justice that these young men, who acted as mediators between the crew and a group of panicked asylum-seekers, will now face trial and possible life imprisonment. The indictment fails to recognize that they were part of a group of more than 100 asylum-seekers faced with an illegal pushback to Libya which would have put their lives at risk. Yet, they are the ones who might now need to defend themselves against charges ranging from ‘acts of terrorism’ to ‘violence’. The inquiry that has led to the indictment has been marred by serious procedural irregularities, including the detention of the then children in adult facilities, their prosecution in adult courts, and the failure to call key witnesses to testify.“

While court proceedings are ongoing we can not lobby the Attorney General or the court. The Amnesty research team is currently consulting with the lawyers to decide how Amnesty can campaign most effectively (and safely) on this case. For the moment we are limited to solidarity actions. Please write postcards or letters expressing your solidarity. The Aditus Foundation in Malta is a NGO whose lawyers are part of the legal team of the El Hiblu 3. Please write “message of solidarity “ on the envelope.

Aditus foundation,
Rhea Building, 1A,
Triq is-Santissima Trinitá,
Ħamrun MRS 2280,

You can also take group photos with solidarity messages (best in front of one of your local landmarks) and post them on social media with an explanation of why we are standing by the El Hiblu 3. Please send copies of the photos to me, I will forward them to our researcher, who is in contact with the young men and their lawyers.

The criminalisation of refugees and those who try to help is part of the cynical effort to keep refugees out of Europe and to circumvent the Human Right to seek asylum from persecution. Please read the full article with background information by Nils Muižnieks, Director of Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office:- Malta: A textbook example of all that is wrong with EU institutions and member states’ migration policies in the Central Mediterranean.

I am still awaiting the Action Circular from the AI International Secretariat, with guidelines and instructions on how to best campaign for the EL Hiblu 3. As soon as I have received the Action circular I will contact all the groups and individual activists who want to adopt this case to brainstorm a calendar of action.


Humanity Wins, the Iuventa Case

Italian prosecutors drop case against crew of rescue ship Iuventa. Judge to announce the final decision in IUVENTA case on 19 April.

I am pleased to inform you that the Prosecutors in Sicily asked a court to dismiss a case against crew members of the Iuventa migrant rescue ship, on the grounds that no crime was committed.

As a reminder, the volunteers had been accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration in 2017. The crew members were originally accused of serving as a “taxi” for migrants rather than rescuing them, taking migrants on board from ships operated by Libyan traffickers and allowing the latter to turn back undisturbed after they had handed over their passengers.

In 2020, Amnesty International launched a worldwide solidarity campaign calling on the Italian prosecutor to drop the investigation against Iuventa crew members.

Markus N. Beeko and Franziska Vilmar (Amnesty International Germany), with Iuventa crew members Sascha Girke, Dariush Beigui and Hendrik Simon in Berlin. The crew was awarded the Amnesty human rights award 2020 for rescuing more than 14,000 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: Picture-alliance/dpa.

Reacting to the prosecutor’s recognition that charges against the Iuventa ship’s crew members should be dropped, Elisa De Pieri, Amnesty International’s Regional Researcher, said:

“We welcome today’s positive news that the Trapani court Prosecutor has requested the dismissal of the case against all members of the Iuventa crew and the other human rights defenders who served on the rescue ships operated by Médicins Sans Frontières and Save the Children. The Iuventa crew has endured six and half years of court proceedings with unfaltering grace and resilience and we are glad that there is new hope that the court case will finally be thrown out.

The Iuventa ship has saved more than 14,000 lives, including children, and its crew has done so upholding the law of the sea. We urge the authorities to stop misusing criminal proceedings and charges of facilitation of irregular migration to obstruct life-saving activities.”

Read more here:

Thank you everyone who joined this action and campaign and has been part of it in the past few years! Your voices do make a change!

Please continue to show support to the Iuventa crew online on their webpage:

The Iuventa crew themselves have been active and have already issued a media briefing:, and a call to action Call for solidarity!

Please feel free to visit their website and share and participate in their call to action. You can follow them on X at iuventa-crew @IuventaCrew.

Europe Team:-

Chris Ramsey Country Coordinator for Türkiye;  Jovana Bosnjak  Country Coordinator for Western & Northern Europe; Ulrike Schmidt Country Coordinator for Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean; Lucja Jastrzebska Country Coordinator  for Central Europe