Amnesty slams Turkey for keeping six rights activists in custody

Press TV- 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.”

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey Researcher (R), speaks to media on July 17, 2017 in front of Istanbul’s courthouse. (Photo by AFP)

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.

Opposition vows more ‘justice marches’

Meanwhile, CHP chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for calling a recent protest rally, dubbed “March for Justice,” by his party supporters a “terrorist march.”

He vowed that his party will organize more and more anti-Erdogan protest marches in future.

“I am not afraid. There is a serious lack of democracy in this country [and] someone needs to take a stand against it. Our main goal now is to drag Erdogan down from his palace. We are determined to do this,” Kilicdaroglu said in an interview with The Times on Monday.

Kilicdaroglu and his supporters began the march from Ankara to Istanbul on June 15 in protest at the arrest of the prominent CHP MP Enis Berberoglu on charges of espionage.

Accompanied by thousands of people, Kilicdaroglu concluded his march on July 9 in a massive rally in Istanbul with the participation of around one million people.

Erdogan has frequently accused the CHP leader of organizing his justice march in support of the Gulen movement.

“We are against the July 15 coup attempt. We call it the people’s fight for democracy. And then there’s the palace’s July 15. The palace took advantage of the coup attempt and five days later announced the state of emergency. We call this the palace’s coup,” Kilicdaroglu said.

“I don’t accept the label ‘terrorist,’ in fact I laugh at it. They can’t cope with the fact that I have a free spirit. If someone comes from a culture that isn’t democratic, then they can call my march a ‘terrorist march,’” he added.