Eight human rights activists in Turkey were attending a training workshop in a hotel in Istanbul on July 5. Soon, plainclothes police officers raided the venue and arrested all eight of them. They also detained the owner of the hotel briefly. Police said the arrest was made on the suspicion of the activists being members of a terrorist group.
Those arrested include Idil Eser, the director of the Turkish arm of Amnesty International and two trainers who had come for the workshop from Germany and Sweden respectively. The other activists are Ilknur Ustun of Women’s Coalition; Gunal Kursun and Veli Acu of Human Rights Agenda Association; Nalan Erkem and Ozlem Dalkiran of Citizen’s Assembly; Nejat Tastan of Equal Rights Watch Association and lawyer Seyhmus Ozbekli. All activists are being held in different police stations across the Turkish capital.
In its official statement on the issue, Amnesty International called the detentions as ‘a grotesque abuse of power’ while demanding immediate and unconditional release of all the activists. Its Secretary General Salil Shetty also called the whole incident as absurd. “Their spurious detention while attending a routine workshop was bad enough: that they are now being investigated for membership of an armed terrorist organization beggars belief,” Shetty said in the statement.
Last July, there was an unsuccessful attempt by the army to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by the army. Since then, there have been more than 50,000 arrests over alleged links with terrorist groups. Many soldiers, police, teachers, journalists and public servants have been suspended or dismissed.
Many countries have openly criticized the action. Social media is abuzz with support for the activists. The hashtag #İnsanHaklarıSavunucularınaDokunma on Twitter.