Okeil: We call on the Turkish authorities to release Al-Astal, and we hold them responsible for his safety
Ghassan Al Astal: We call on the international community to pressure Turkey to release my brother
On September 21, 2020, the Palestinian journalist, Ahmed Al-Astal, who was living in Turkey for 7 years, was arrested without justification. Al-Astal was abducted publicly from one of the streets of Istanbul while searching for a new home to stay in, according to the testimony of his family. They also confirmed that Al-Astal's house was stormed by unknown figures while he and his family were out, two weeks before the kidnapping. His personal laptop, along with some papers and files related to his work were stolen. The Turkish authorities denied arresting him. However, thanks to the pressures exerted by human rights organizations, tipped by Maat for Peace, Development, and Human Rights, Turkey admitted that Al-Astal was arrested on October 19, 2020, without a warrant, under unfounded and baseless charges.
Since then, Al-Astal remains behind bars in Turkish prisons without a fair trial. His family said that he was subjected to systematic torture, which violates all international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which prohibit arbitrary detentions and torture of prisoners.
In this context, and with the authorization of Al-Astal’s family, Maat launches a human rights campaign entitled "Non-guilty, Al-Astal remains behind bars in Turkey”, for urging the international community to take immediate action and pressure the Turkish government to release the Palestinian journalist. Before that, Maat submitted many urgent human rights appeals to the UN Special Procedures, especially the Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, which the Turkish government has ignored.
For his part, Ayman Okeil, president of Maat, explained that the detention of Al-Astal constitutes an attack on freedom of opinion and expression, and he called on the Turkish government to immediately release him. Okeil also held the Turkish government responsible for the safety of Al-Astal’s life, as the victim's family reported that he was subjected to systematic torture and ill-treatment in Turkish prisons. Therefore, Maat calls on Turkey to respect its human rights obligations and abide by the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, pointing out that the main goal of the campaign launched by Maat is to release the journalist Ahmed Al-Astal and to shed light on the violations committed by the Turkish government.
In a related context, Ghassan Al-Astal, the brother of the detained journalist, Ahmed Al-Astal, also requested the international community and the special procedures of the Human Rights Council to directly intervene to end the forced detention of his brother, who was detained for 6 months without trial. He also affirmed that the family continues to pursue the Turkish government at the international level of its officials for several gross violations of rights, including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, systemic torture, and preventing him from access to a fair trial.