Amnesty International slams Ankara for keeping six rights activists, including the director of its Turkey branch, in pre-trial custody on terror-related charges, saying the move shows “truth and justice have become total strangers” in the country.
Idil Eser, Amnesty International Turkey’s director, was among the group of human rights activists remanded in custody, the Hurriyet Daily News said on Tuesday.
Eser and 9 other activists, including a German and a Swedish national, had been detained on July 5 while attending a workshop on digital security and information management at a hotel near Istanbul.
Eight of those detained were Turkish rights activists, including Ilknur Ustun of the Women’s Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association.
The two foreigners, who were leading the digital information workshop, remain in pre-trial detention.
Turkey’s state prosecutor had asked the court on Monday to remand all of them in custody pending trial for membership at a terrorist organization. The court, however, ordered four of the activists to be released, Hurriyet added.
Reacting to the development, Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said, “Today we have learnt that standing up for human rights has become a crime in Turkey. Today’s decision shows that truth and justice have become total strangers in Turkey.”
The rights group further urged the international community not to remain tight-lipped against Turkey’s jailing of the activists.
“Leaders around the world must stop biting their tongues and acting as if they can continue business as usual. They must bring pressure to bear on Turkish authorities to drop these spurious charges and to immediately and unconditionally release the rights defenders,” Shetty added.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told media that the Turkish court order is a “shocking travesty of justice …. 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 earlier said the activists’ gathering had been a “routine” workshop and there was nothing suspicious about it.
Last month, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic was also arrested over suspicion of links to an anti-Ankara movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen blamed by Ankara for the 2016 failed coup.
The arrests are part a huge police crackdown following last July’s coup attempt. More than 50,000 people have been jailed and over 150,000 including judges, teachers, police and other state servants have been dismissed or suspended in the purge.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Istanbul lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu questioned the motive behind the arrests.
“They are all members of associations that were founded within the law and their activities are open to public. The reasons behind their detentions are unknown due to the confidentiality order,” he said.
“On which grounds were they detained?” he asked.