Human rights organizations urge action in support of environmental activist Fusun Ergun

Human rights organizations urge action in support of environmental activist Fusun Ergun
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Fusun Ergun is an activist in Turkey who was charged with the “prevention of public duty” after being arrested at a protest against deforestation. Human rights organizations report that her right to a fair trial is being violated.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has published an urgent appeal in the case of Fusun Ergun, an environmental activist in Turkey who is being prosecuted for the “prevention of public duty” as per Article 265 of the Penal Code of Turkey for her participation in protests which aimed to protect a forest in Mugla from mining operations.

Ergun is the spokesperson of Ecology Unity Women’s Assembly, a member of Kazdaglari Ecology Platform and Kazdaglari Sisterhood. She is also a member of the Marmara Region Solidarity and Coordination Group under the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.

Ergun was part of the Ikizkoy Akbelen Resistance formed in October 2019 by residents of the province of Mugla to protect the Akbelen Forest from deforestation by mining companies. The protest movement turned into a “continuous ongoing vigil” in 2021 when “teams affiliated with the General Directorate of Forestry entered the Akbelen Forest to start operations and cut down trees.” Protesting residents carried out a nationwide campaign which resulted in two separate stay of execution orders regarding the permission to carry out mining site operations. Disregarding these orders, both gendarmerie units and the mining companies continued to prevent protests, with the former using excessive force against protestors and the latter threatening residents with dismissal from their jobs and restricted water access.

On August 11, 2021 Fusun Ergun was detained by gendarmerie officers alongside other 11 peaceful protestors when a force of roughly 250 officers raided the forest. Ergun, who had tied herself to a tree, was violently removed from the area before being held in custody and then charged with “prevention of public duty.”

In the past five hearings of her case, FIDH reports that Ergun’s right to due process was violated, with the judge ordering Ergun to “stand still and not sit down” and threats being made against her attorneys by the public prosecutor.

The sixth hearing in Ergun’s trial will take place on March 27, 2023 at the Milas 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance. The court is expected to hand down its verdict in this hearing. If convicted, Ergun could face up to four years in prison.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partner of FIDH, “strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Fusun Ergun, which seems to be only aimed at preventing her from exercising her legitimate environmental and human rights activities.”

The urgent appeal published by FIDH includes an action request to readers. FIDH urges readers to write to Turkish embassies and to authorities in Turkey, such as the President, the Ministers of Justice and Interior, and Turkey’s ambassadors to the EU and to the UN, asking them to guarantee Ergun’s well-being, to end acts of judicial harassment, and to guarantee her rights to due process and fair trial.