press release group of lawyers: No Political Refugee must be extradited to Turkey




The deterioration in the protection of civil, political and social rights and freedoms has been continuing under the current Greek Government, partially due to the economic crisis. Against this background, and following Prime Minister Samaras’ visit to Ankara and the announcement of closer co-operation between the Greek and the Turkish Government, the Greek authorities, which in the past only reluctantly enacted international arrest warrants against Turkish refugees, have over the past two months engaged in a real witch hunt against all those wanted for their political actions in Turkey.
Pursuant to this governmental agreement, the Greek authorities have so far arrested five refugees with a view to extradite them. Their detention continues until today. At least one of them has been deprived of his liberty since 12 February, more than two months.
Parallel to these arrests of Turkish and Kurdish activists, an alarming number of publications in the Turkish press have referred to agreements between the two governments on the extradition of the wanted people and to secret bilateral anti-terrorist agreements with financial rewards, while portraying specific refugees in Greece, publishing their names and predicting their arrests by the Greek authorities.
All the arrested refugees have been persecuted in Turkey on political grounds and have been subjected to torture, while some of them are former hunger strikers in Turkish prisons.
All arrested refugees have applied for asylum with the Greek authorities. Some of their applications have been pending for more than a decade, notwithstanding a positive recommendation by the competent Committees (p.d. 61/99) on their formal recognition as refugees. This delay by the Greek authorities has kept the Kurdish and Turkish refugees hostage for years whilst facing an imminent risk of extradition to Turkey.
Should their extradition be carried out, the five arrested refugees are at risk of torture and imprisonment after unfair trials because of their political activities.
The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees wishes to recall that there are hundreds of people, among whom journalists, labour rights activists, students and lawyers, who are being systematically persecuted in modern Turkey because of their political and pro-Kurdish beliefs, in the context of the anti-terrorist law. They are brought before special courts on the basis of unfair pre-trials and confessions obtained through torture. In March 2013, the Athens Bar Association condemned the recent arrests of lawyers in Turkey carried out under the anti-terrorist law, the mere purpose of which had been to “terrorise the Turkish people”. Reports about torture of arrested people by the Turkish authorities continue to emerge. Likewise, the recent murder of three Kurdish activist women in Paris, one of whom was a recognised political refugee, and the refusal of a Turkish request for extradition by Germany, raises serious concerns and questions.
Two of the five people at risk of extradition, Zeki Gorbuz and Comert Bulent Aytunc were arrested on 12 February 2013 in Patra, when the first one appeared before the police authorities in the context of the asylum process, accompanied by the second who was helping out with translation.
On 26 March 2013, the applications for their extradition were examined at first instance by the Council of Appeal of Patras which unanimously and in line with the Prosecutor’s Opinion decided against their extradition to Turkey, recognising the political reasons behind their persecution. Kurdish-alevi Zeki Gurbuz has been in the crosshairs of the Turkish authorities since his student years, on grounds of both his own political activities and those of his family members. He is himself a victim of torture; his sister has been persecuted by the Turkish authorities because of her action to stop sexual torture and his wife because of her work as a journalist. Comert Bulent Aytunc, an asylum seeker in Greece since 2002, is also a victim of torture. He is wanted by the Turkish authorities because of his left-wing and pro-Kurdish convictions, on the basis of a charge sheet prepared by the Court of National Security. He is also one of the former hunger strikers of 2000-2001, who had fought against the “white cells” (type F) and solitary confinements, the purpose of which had been the physical and psychological exhaustion of the political opponents of the Turkish state.
Despite the dismissal of the extradition request at first instance, and apparently in the context of the above-described agreements and pressures by the Turkish authorities, the Prosecutor’s Office in Patra lodged an appeal. The case is scheduled to be heard at last instance before Areios Pagos on 19 April (9.30 a.m.).
The Group of Lawyers recalls that the extradition of persons who are persecuted in their home country for political reasons or are at risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment in case of return or are at risk of being subjected to an unfair trial, is a flagrant violation of the Greek Constitution, Greek law, the Refugee Convention of 1951 (Art. 33), the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (Arts. 18 and 19) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Arts. 3 and 6).
• We declare our solidarity with the Turkish and Kurdish activists and political refugees
• We demand that nobody be extradited to Turkey
• We call upon your support on 19 April 2013 at Areios Pagos

Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees
Rethymnou 11 and Ioulianou, tel. 210 8259 449

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