Amnesty International’s chief not allowed to visit jailed Turkish human rights defender İdil Eser

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty was not permitted to visit the Amnesty’s Turkey director İdil Eser, who was jailed on “terrorism” charges two months ago. During his visit to Turkey, Shetty applied for authorization to visit to Eser in İstanbul’s infamous Silivri Prison but he was not received at the prosecutor’s office at the prison.

As she does not have any first-degree relatives, Eser is reportedly not allowed any visits other than a one-hour meeting once a week with her lawyers. She is also not allowed to stay with two other arrested rights defenders, Özlem Dalkıran and Nalan Erkem.

According to government decree no. 667 issued under a state of emergency (OHAL) that was put into effect soon after a botched coup attempt in Turkey last July, people who are arrested on terrorism charges can only meet with their immediate family and lawyers once a week.

Eser’s lawyer, Erdal Doğan, said: “İdil Eser’s father and mother are not alive, she has no siblings, she is not married and has no children. According to the OHAL law, nobody can go to visit her. Thus, because of the OHAL law she has no visitors. This is a most serious violation of human rights and the law.”

Reminding that before the existence of OHAL decrees prisoners could give the names of people who would visit them, Doğan said some friends of Eser would file a petition with the prosecutor’s office to ask for permission to visit her.

Speaking to daily Cumhuriyet while returning from the prison, Shetty described the charges directed against Eser and other rights activists as “absurd,” saying they had been targeted over their human rights works. He stressed the importance of “finding ways to provide dialogue between opposing ideas in every country, including Turkey, where there are opposing ideas regarding the state of the country.”

Shetty said Turkey “deserved better” in terms of human rights, adding that it was “unacceptable” for innocent people to be deprived of their freedom regardless of the political motives behind such arrests. Amnesty International is continuing to work to secure permission for prison visits by friends of Eser, he added.

Six human rights activists, including Eser and German human rights consultant Peter Steudtner, who were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada, were put in pretrial detention by an İstanbul court on July 18 on charges of “abetting a terrorist organization.”

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, during a press conference in Hamburg on July 8, and signaled that the detention of the rights defenders could turn into imprisonment.

Earlier in June, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kılıç, was also arrested on charges of having alleged inks to the Gülen movement. Shetty told Cumhuriyet that this was the first time Amnesty International had ever had two heads in the same country arrested.

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