“The detention of Idil Eser and others in yesterday’s workshop alongside their trainers is further evidence of the Turkish government’s disrespect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia. “Their detention is the latest in a series of arrests of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in Turkey and clearly represents a further tightening of control over civil society. They should be released immediately.”
Eser and the other activists as well as their trainers were taken away during a police raid on the hotel in which they were staying during their participation in a digital security and information management workshop. The hotel owner was also detained. A Guardian report states that while Turkish officials insist that their actions are lawful, the whereabouts of those detained remains unknown and there is as of yet no explanation of the reasons the hotel was raided. According to Amnesty International, the detainees have apparently been refused access to their lawyers and have not yet been given the right to contact their family members.
Those human rights defenders detained alongside Idil Eser are: Özlem Dalkıran, Nalan Erkem and Şeyhmuz Özbekli (Helsinki Citizens Assembly); İlknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition); Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association); Nejat Taştan (Equal Rights Watch Association). The foreign trainers are a German and a Swedish national.
Yesterday’s police raid and comes within a month of the arrest of Taner Kiliç, the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, who was detained alongside 22 other lawyers on 7 June 2017 before being remanded in police custody pending trial. Kiliç’s detention order referred to an investigation into suspected members of the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation”, however Amnesty’s report on the arrest states that it is unclear why Kiliç was suspected of having these links. Kiliç and those arrested with him remain in detention.
The Turkish government blames the Fethullah Gülen movement for the July 2016 coup attempt and has since charged a number of journalists and human rights defenders with Gülenist affiliation as well as targeting his followers, arresting 50,000 people and purging tens of thousands of others from government jobs. According to a Guardian report, Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involved in the coup and condemned it. Critics in turkey and abroad say Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent and purge opponents.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Turkish government to immediately and unconditionally release Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, representatives of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, and the other human rights defenders, their digital security trainers and the hotel owner detained in yesterday’s raid.
ARTICLE 19 also reiterates its call for the release of Taner Kiliç, Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, the 22 lawyers detained with him last month and all other human rights defenders, journalists and media workers arrested without any individualised evidence of involvement in a crime.