Hu­man rights ac­tivists face charges in Turkey

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ten Turk­ish hu­man rights ac­tivists who were de­tained by po­lice while at­tend­ing a train­ing work­shop ap­peared be­fore court of­fi­cials in Istanbul yes­ter­day to face pos­si­ble charges or be re­leased from cus­tody. The ac­tivists, in­clud­ing Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s Turkey di­rec­tor Idil Eser, were de­tained ear­lier this month at a ho­tel on Buyukada is­land off Istanbul and ques­tioned by anti-ter­ror­ism po­lice.

Amnesty said the group was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for mem­ber­ship in an armed ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has made vague ac­cu­sa­tions against the 10, say­ing they were hold­ing a meet­ing that had the “na­ture of a con­tin­u­a­tion” of last year’s failed coup at­tempt. Amnesty has called for their re­lease and said their case is a test for Turkey’s ju­di­ciary.

“Turkey will be dis­graced in the eyes of world if these hu­man rights de­fend­ers are put in prison for de­fend­ing hu­man rights,” An­drew Gard­ner, Amnesty’s Turkey re­searcher, told a group of re­porters out­side the court­house. Other than Amnesty, the ac­tivists are mem­bers of the Women’s coali­tion, the Helsinki Cit­i­zens

Assem­bly, the Hu­man Rights’ Agenda As­so­ci­a­tion, the As­so­ci­a­tion to Mon­i­tor Equal Rights and the Rights Ini­tia­tive. Their two train­ers - a Ger­man and a Swede - were also de­tained. Turkey has blamed the July 15, 2016, failed coup on fol­low­ers of US-based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gulen and has branded his move­ment a ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion. The coun­try de­clared a state of emer­gency days af­ter the coup and launched a mas­sive crack­down, ar­rest­ing about 50,000 peo­ple and dis­miss­ing more than 100,000 from govern­ment jobs. The crack­down ini­tially fo­cused on peo­ple with sus­pected ties to the al­leged coup plot­ters, but has been ex­tended to in­clude politi­cians, jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists.

Turkey’s par­lia­ment yes­ter­day voted to ex­tend the state of emer­gency, which was due to ex­pire on July 19, by a fur­ther three months. Er­do­gan has said the state of emer­gency would be reg­u­larly ex­tended un­til tran­quil­ity is re­stored. Eser is the sec­ond top Amnesty In­ter­na­tional of­fi­cial in Turkey to face pros­e­cu­tion. Last month, Amnesty’s Turkey chair, Taner Kilic, was ar­rested for al­leged links to Gulen’s move­ment. “It’s no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that Amnesty In­ter­na­tional in Turkey and in fact the whole of the Hu­man Rights move­ment here in Turkey faces an ex­is­ten­tial threat,” Gard­ner said. In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, 19 peo­ple in­clud­ing for­mer sol­diers - went on trial in Istanbul, for raid­ing the head­quar­ters of Do­gan me­dia hold­ing on the night of the failed at­tempt in a bid to take over two of its tele­vi­sion sta­tions and Hur­riyet news­pa­per. They face life terms in prison if found guilty of charges of try­ing to over­throw the state and mem­ber­ship in a ter­ror group. Also yes­ter­day, a group of lawyers gath­ered at a court­house in Istanbul to protest the de­ten­tion of a col­league, Mustafa Ya­man, on al­leged links to Gulen. —AP


ISTANBUL: Rel­a­tives of Ve­dat Bagcerci, a vic­tim of July 15 failed coup bid, hold uni­forms like orange jump­suits used at US mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay with a noose while chant­ing slo­gan for death penalty against FETO (Fethul­lah Gulen Ter­ror­ist Or­gan­i­sa­tion) mem­bers.

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