18 July 2017 09:08

Six people, including Amnesty director, held on 'terror' charges

Six human rights activists including Amnesty International's Turkey director remained in custody for aiding a 'terror' group.


A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered that six human rights activists including Amnesty International's Turkey director İdil Eser remain in custody for aiding a terror group. Four released on judicial control

Amnesty International'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 on Büyükada, an island south of İstanbul.

Amnesty International's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said prosecutors accuse them of "committing a crime in the name of a terror organisation without being a member."

The ruling came a day after the activists, who have not yet been put on trial or formally charged, gave statements to prosecutors for the first time since their detention.

Eight of those detained were rights activists, including İlknur Üstün of the Women's Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association. Four of those have now been released, Gardner said.

Two foreigners - a German and a Swedish national who were leading the digital information workshop - remain in pre-trial detention.

The bizarre accusations include attempts to link İdil Eser with three unrelated and opposing terrorist organisations through her work with Amnesty International. The prosecutors request that she be remanded in pretrial prison custody references two Amnesty International campaigns, neither of which were authored by Amnesty Turkey, one of which was conducted before she joined the organisation. 


Speaking to journalists outside the İstanbul court ahead of the ruling, Gardner said if the activists were remanded in pre-trial prison custody, "that would be a travesty of justice," and called for their immediate release.

"This is a test for Turkey's judiciary," he said.

"Turkey will be disgraced in the eyes of the world if these human rights defenders are put in prison for defending human rights."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said this month that the activists were detained on a tip-off they were working against the government, comparing them to those involved in a failed coup in July last year.

Gardner said the meeting on Büyükada had been a "routine" workshop and there was nothing suspicious about it. 

"What is absolutely crystal clear, one hundred percent clear is this was a routine human rights workshop -- the sort of workshop that happens all over Turkey, in fact, the sort of workshop that happens all over the world," he said.

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.

Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kılıç was also arrested last month, accused of links to Fethullah Gülen.


Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said, "Jailing of activists, including Amnesty director, a crushing blow for rights in Turkey. Turkish prosecutors have had 12 days to establish the obvious: that these activists are innocent. The decision to proceed shows that truth and justice have become total strangers in Turkey. This is not a legitimate prosecution, this is a politically motivated persecution that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey. Today we have learnt that standing up for human rights has become a crime in Turkey. This is a moment of truth, for Turkey and for the international community.

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.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)