The case

Background – Turkey and human rights


New Tactics in Human Rights International Symposium brings together hundreds of practitioners together from across Turkey and the world to share approaches to advancing human rights. Ali (then Technology Director at the Center for Victims of Torture) and the staff of the CVT and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HcA) work closely together to organize the event.

The European Union agrees to consider Turkey’s accession to the EU.


Turkey begins talks to join the European Union.


An unsuccessful coup attempt takes place in July, resulting in over 200 deaths and over 2000 injured.  A State of Emergency is declared. In response to the coup attempt over 100,000 public sector employees are dismissed (teachers, academics, police officers, military employees, etc.). Over 100 media outlets are shut down and their journalists are detained. Thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are closed.


An election referendum is organized to introduce constitutional amendments expanding presidential powers and restricting democratic freedoms.  The referendum is narrowly approved.


The #Istanbul10 Case

July 1, 2017

Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner travel to the island of Büyükada in Turkey to facilitate a workshop for Turkish human rights activists in holistic security. The workshop is organised by the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly, and Ali’s participation is funded by the Dutch Development Agency Hivos which Ali has been working with for many year. Ali know some of the Turkish workshop participants for more than a decade, and he does not foresee any problem with this workshop in specific.

July 5, 2017

The workshop in Holistic Security is raided by police.  Ali, Peter, and eight human rights defenders are detained.  Initially, they are denied access to lawyers and their locations remain unknown.  The charges are unknown.

July 6, 2017

All ten detainees have their detentions extended to seven days following their arrests a day earlier on Bayukada island, off the coast of Istanbul. Seven days is the maximum period of time permitted for detainees to be held without charge under Turkey’s State of Emergency.

July 11, 2017

Under State of Emergency laws, the group’s detention is extended for an additional 7 days without charges.

July 17, 2017

The group (dubbed the ‘Istanbul 10’) are summoned to the Palace of Justice to be interviewed by the Prosecutor(s) to determine if an arrest complaint is to be filled with the court, or the detainees are to be released. After 12 hours of interviews, the prosecutor announces the intention to press charges, and refers the case to the emergency court, convened at 11pm on July 17.

July 18, 2017

After a 12-hour marathon hearing by the emergency court, Ali, Peter and the eight Turkish Human Rights Defenders are charged with “aiding armed terrorist organization(s)”, 6 are ordered arrested and sent to pre-trial detention (the other 4 ordered to remain under judicial/police observation pending trial). While the other detainees are sent to Silivri prison, Ali and Peter are sent to Maltepe Prison for Foreign Criminals in Maltepe, eastern Istanbul. They are isolated from the prison population, housed together in a 6-person unit.

July 22, 2017

Upon prosecutors’ appeal 2 of the 4 HRDs are re-arrested.

August 1, 2017

At the behest of the prosecutors’ request, Ali and Peter are transferred from Maltepe to Silivri Prison, campus #9 (High security campus). They are segregated and put in solitary confinement.

August 5, 2017

Due to language difficulties, prison guards move Ali to a 3-person cell with one cellmate.

September 25, 2017

Ali is allowed an in-person visit by his wife Laressa, lasting 45 minutes, after over 2 months of isolation and lack of contact or communication.

October 25, 2017

Ali Gharavi together with the rest of the Istanbul 10, is released following the first hearing in the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court.

October 26, 2017

Ali leaves Turkey. Several of the Human Rights Defenders are issued travel bans. All ten remain charged with “aiding armed terrorist organization(s).” The case continues.

November 10, 2017

At the second hearing of their case, the travel bans are lifted. The next hearing date of January 31, 2018 is announced.

January 31, 2018

At the third hearing of the case, Taner Kilic, Amnesty International Turkey Chair who was not part of the Istanbul10 but whose case was added to theirs, was released from pre-trial detention then immediately rearrested before being able to leave the prison. He remains in custody. The next hearing date of June 21, 2018 is announced.

June 21, 2018

At the fourth hearing of the case, the court heard testimony from two witnesses, one translator and one “secret” witness. Taner Kilic made a statement on his own behalf. The evidence for the case has essentially collapsed, but the court refused to release Taner from pre-trial detention and refused to drop the case against the #Istanbul10. The next hearing date is set for November 7, 2018.