Turkey holds six rights activists on charges of aiding terror group

A Turkish court ordered the formal arrest of Amnesty International’s Turkey director and five other human rights workers on charges of helping an armed terrorist organisation

Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, is the group's second top level official to be detained in a month
Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, is the group's second top level official to be detained in a month

An Istanbul court has ordered six human rights activists - including Amnesty International's Turkey director - to be formally arrested pending a trial on charges of aiding an armed terror group.

Idil Eser, Amnesty’s Turkey director, was detained on 5 July along with seven other activists, one Swedish trainer and one German trainer, during a digital security and information management workshop on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul.

Four were released from custody on the condition of judicial control on Tuesday pending the outcome of a trial. They have been barred from travelling abroad and have to report regularly to police.

Prosecutors accused the group of “committing a crime in the name of a terror organisation without being a member”, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, told Agence France-Presse.

It is not clear which terror organisation they are accused of helping.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had made vague accusations, saying the group was involved in a meeting that had the "nature of a continuation" of last year's failed coup attempt.

That claim was rebuffed by Amnesty International, the rights group that has seen two of its top Turkey officials detained in a month.

Last month, Amnesty's Turkey chair, Taner Kilic, was arrested for alleged links to exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating the coup attempt.

“Turkish prosecutors have had 12 days to establish the obvious: that these 10 activists are innocent. The decision to proceed shows that truth and justice have become total strangers in Turkey,” Amnesty International’s secretary general, Salil Shetty, said.

“This is not a legitimate investigation, this is a politically motivated witch-hunt that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey.”

Turkey declared a state of emergency days after the failed 15 July coup and launched a massive crackdown, arresting about 50,000 people and dismissing more than 110,000 workers from government jobs. The crackdown initially focused on people suspected of ties to the alleged coup plotters, but has been extended to include politicians, journalists and activists.

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