Amnesty’s Eser: Whatever we faced will remain an absurd memory

Amnesty International’s Turkey Director İdil Eser, who was released on Oct. 26 with seven other human rights defenders after spending 135 days in jail, said whatever they faced would remain a Kafkaesque memory, except for experiencing prison as a human rights defender.

On July 5, 2017 Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained Eser from AI, İlknur Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Nalan Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Şeyhmus Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.

“I think we will be acquitted because there is no crime. There is no evidence. Everything listed as evidence is rubbish.  This will become an absurd memory,” Eser said in an exclusive interview with Cumhuriyet.

Underlining that they know there are risks for human rights defenders but never imagined it could be this Kafkaesque, Eser also expressed a positive dimension of her prison experience: “It was an interesting experience for a human rights defender. Reading about it is one thing; experiencing it is something totally different.”

“From now on I will focus more on the rights of imprisoned people.”

During a press conference in Hamburg on July 8, 2017 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

The pro-Erdoğan Star daily claimed on July 11 that the CIA and MI6 were behind the meeting.

Another pro-Erdoğan paper, Yeni Şafak, on July 23 claimed that the rights activists had ties to the German BND intelligence service.

A day after the release of eight human rights activists by an İstanbul court, a court in Izmir ruled for the continuation of the pre-trial detention of Taner Kılıç, chair of the board of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, combining his case with the activists’ Büyükada case.

Reacting to the decision of the İzmir court, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said: “Over the last 24 hours we have seen the twin hands of Turkey’s fickle justice system at play. While one grants liberty, the other, confronted with no less baseless charges, takes it away.”

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 civil servants, including governors, judges, prosecutors, teachers, soldiers and police, since July 15 through government decrees issued as part of the state of emergency. (

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