Turkey releases 12 rights activists as US urges respect for freedoms

Turkey releases 12 rights activists as US urges respect for freedoms

Turkey releases 12 rights activists as US urges respect for freedoms

Professors Turgut Tarhanlı (L) and Betül Tanbay

Turkish authorities have released 12 human rights activists, including two prominent academics, who were detained on Nov. 16 under an investigation into jailed rights activist Osman Kavala and accused of following him in a bid to unseat the government through mass protests in 2013.

Detention warrants were issued on Nov. 16 for 20 people as part of an investigation into Anadolu Kültür (Anatolian Culture), whose chairman Kavala has been jailed for more than a year. Turkish police had detained 14 human rights activists on Nov. 16 in connection with the probe.

The two academics were Professor Turgut Tarhanlı of Istanbul Bilgi University and Professor Betül Tanbay of Boğaziçi University. The detainees were linked to Anadolu Kültür.     

Tarhanlı, Tanbay and 10 other detainees were released on Nov. 17, after they testified to police in Istanbul.

The judicial procedure on Filiz Telek was reported to continue while another detainee named Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who works at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, was arrested in connection with the case. Aksakoğlu is also the country representative of the private Bernard van Leer Foundation for childhood development.

Six other suspects in the case were reported to be abroad.  

US: Release those held arbitrarily

“The United States is very concerned about Turkey’s detention today of academics, journalists, and civil society activists with ties to the Anatolia Culture Association. Transparency, rule of law, and freedom of expression and association are fundamental elements of every healthy democracy,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Nov. 16.

“The U.S.-Turkey partnership is strongest when Turkish democracy is thriving. We urge Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, association, and assembly, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to release those held arbitrarily,” she added.

In a statement marking one year since he was remanded in custody, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch renewed calls at the end of October for Kavala’s immediate and unconditional release.

No indictment outlining the precise charges against him had so far been issued by prosecutors, their statement said.