Turkish court arrests six human rights activists on terror charges
A Turkish court on July 18 ruled for the arrest of six human rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey director for aiding a terror group.
Amnesty’s Turkey director İdil Eser was detained on July 5 along with seven other activists and two foreign trainers during a digital security and information management workshop in Istanbul’s Büyükada island.
“Six were arrested and four were released on judicial control,” Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told AFP.
Prosecutors accuse the activists of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.”
The prosecutors and the arrest ruling did not name a specific terrorist organization, but he prosecutor claimed that the activists were in contacts with members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullah Gülen network, widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.
A separate investigation on charges of “financing terrorism” and “spying” is also in progress, the prosecutors said, according to Anadolu Agency.
The ruling came a day after the activists gave statements to prosecutors for the first time since their detention.
Eight of those detained were Turkish rights activists, including İlknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association. Two foreigners -- a German and a Swedish national who were leading the digital information workshop – were also arrested.
Four other activists were released on judicial control and banned from traveling abroad.
“It is politically motivated targeting not just of these six human rights defenders who have been remanded in pre-trial prison custody but it is taking aim at Turkey’s entire human rights movement,” Gardner told AFP.
“What we’ve learnt today is that defending human rights has become a crime in Turkey,” he added.
“After this decision none of us who defend human rights in Turkey, whether it is Amnesty International or other organizations, are safe in this country. This decision cannot be allowed to stand.”
Another name who criticized the ruling was Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty, who said that truth and justice had become “total strangers” in Turkey.
Gardner earlier said the meeting on Büyükada had been a “routine” workshop and there was nothing suspicious about it.
Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kılıç was last month also arrested, accused of links to the Gülen network.
Gardner said before the court ruling that country director Eser remained “in good spirits.”
“She sent messages that as soon as she is released she wants to carry on from where she left off,” he said.
Meanwhile, John Bass, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, met with the Amnesty International representatives in Istanbul on July 17 to “show support for Amnesty International and vital work it does in Turkey, the U.S., and around the world,” the U.S. Consulate tweeted.
In a photo shared by Amnesty International, Bass was seen carrying a banner that read “Turkey: Release all human rights defenders.”