Human rights group Amnesty International has pledged to fight for the release of its activists arrested in Turkey on accusations of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
It is not clear which organisation they are accused of helping but Turkish media reports said prosecutors, requesting the arrests, presented as evidence records of their communications with suspects linked to Kurdish and left-wing militants as well as the movement led by US-based based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup attempt.
Despite Ankara ordering the release of four of the ten on bail on Monday (July 17) the other six have had their detention extended.
They include German Peter Steudtner, prompting a firm rebuke from Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“This is another case where, in our view, innocent people are caught up in the wheels of the justice system and end up in detention. Therefore this is a cause for huge worry, and we will do everything in our means to help these people, and in this particular case, Peter Steudtner.”
In London, home of Amnesty, protesters were out in force calling for the UK government to speak out against what the organisation called Turkey’s slide into
Solidarity with all human rights defenders detained in #Turkey from all of us
amnesty</a>. We won't stop until you're out. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreeRightDefenders?src=hash">#FreeRightDefenders</a> <a href="https://t.co/BI4aTjuocA">pic.twitter.com/BI4aTjuocA</a></p>— Gauri van Gulik (GaurivanGulik) July 18, 2017
Amnesty’s Director of Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen had the following warning:
“There is no room in the Turkey of today, for an independent critical civil society, independent critical reporting. This is to be removed from Erdogan’s Turkey. Turkey is on a one way track to a very dark and dangerous place right now.”
Idil Eser – Amnesty’s Turkey director is among those detained along with three other Turks, the German and a Swiss.
Turkish court orders human rights activists, including
Amnesty</a>'s Turkey director <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/IdilEser?src=hash">#IdilEser</a>, held on terror charges <a href="https://t.co/ucbaiWqSaY">https://t.co/ucbaiWqSaY</a> <a href="https://t.co/XPmn6JcfDn">pic.twitter.com/XPmn6JcfDn</a></p>— dwnews (dwnews) July 18, 2017
Turkey claims it is still investigating the full charges but it’s possible the detainees could be held for as long as two years before their full trial comes to court.
Turkey’s main opposition party called the court’s decision a “shame for Turkey” and raised concerns about whether they would get a fair trial.
The four activists released from custody pending trial have been barred from travelling abroad and have to report regularly to police.
“In Turkey, the judiciary is far away from being objective and independent,” said Sezgin Tanrikulu, a former human rights lawyer and legislator from the opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP. “It’s impossible to speak of fair hearings in an environment where there is no objective and independent judiciary.”
All ten had been in Istanbul attending a workshop on digital security.