Erdoğan says, detained human rights defenders gathered to plan follow up coup

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused a group of recently detained human rights defenders of plotting a follow up to July 15, 2016 coup attempt, during a press conference in Hamburg on Satuday.

Speaking to the press at the sidelines of G20 summit in Hamburg, Erdoğan said that police, acting on a tip from the Turkish intelligence, raided a hotel in İstanbul’s Princes’ Island where eight human rights activists and two trainers were attending a digital security and information management workshop.

The Turkish president signaled that the detention of the right defenders may turn into imprisonment, adding that their meeting was considered by security forces as a follow up to the July 15 coup bid.

“What was the reason for those [human rights defenders], who you just mentioned, to gather in a hotel in Büyükada (Princes’ Island)? They were there for a meeting [to plan something] that might be considered as a follow up to July 15 coup attempt. Police raided [the hotel] upon a tip from the intelligence agency. And they were detained as a result of that raid. They are not arrested yet. I don’t know the result of this detention process. It might trigger a trial process. It is a different matter. It is not at the hands of judiciary yet,” Erdoğan said.

Meanwhile, the staunchly pro-government Akşam daily on Saturday claimed that a group of human rights defenders who were detained on Wednesday on an İstanbul island were working on a map for a “new Gezi-protest-like riot plan.”

Recalling a previous claim that CIA operatives gathered on the same island shortly before a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 of last year, the daily reported that the Turkish police and National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had received new information about a meeting attended by eight human rights defenders and two foreign trainers at a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul.

According to the daily, the human rights defenders, who were active during the Gezi Park protests in 2013, a member of the Gülen movement and two foreign trainers — a German and a Swedish national — were working on a map of Turkey when security forces raided the hotel.

The pro-gov’t daily claimed that 11 people including the hotel owners were working on how to spread an İstanbul-based riot to the rest of Turkey.

Akşam also claimed that German national Peter Steudtner and Swedish-Iranian national Ali Ghavari were training participants on the use of social media and the mobilization of the people for riots in the future.

Amnesty International (AI) on Friday addressed President Erdoğan with a special video, reminding Erdoğan how the organization campaigned when he was jailed in 1998. “In 1998 we campaigned for release of a prisoner of conscience @RT_Erdogan. Now we’re asking him to release our staff,” AI said in a tweet, attaching a video showing Erdoğan with the verses of the poem that was used as evidence when the court jailed him.

AI Secretary-General Salil Shetty in a statement on Wednesday harshly criticized the detention of AI Turkey Director Eser along with the seven other human rights activists, calling it “a grotesque abuse of power.”

Taner Kılıç, a lawyer and chairman of AI’s Turkey’s board, was arrested on June 9, accused of links to the alleged mastermind of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Fethullah Gülen, who has denied any involvement.

As part of AI’s efforts to secure the release of the human rights defenders, AI’s Shetty called on G20 leaders to demand that President Erdoğan release the 10 detained in İstanbul, in an opinion piece published in the Guardian.

“In July 1998, Amnesty International wrote to the Turkish government demanding the release of the then-mayor of Istanbul, who had been jailed after reading a poem at a demonstration. Amnesty International had declared him a prisoner of conscience and launched a global campaign on his behalf. His name was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” wrote Shetty, adding:

“Nineteen years later, and now president, it is the same Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who presides over the detention of some of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders and activists, including Amnesty International Turkey’s two leaders.”

Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada and detained İdil Eser from Amnesty International (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 Şeyhmuz Özbekli, and Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association. Two foreign trainers as well as the hotel owner, who was later released, were also detained.

BBC Turkish reported on Thursday that eight human rights activists and two trainers were detained during a during a digital security and information management workshop organized by Amnesty International (AI) in İstanbul on Wednesday.

According to the report, the Helsinki Citizens Assembly said Özlem Dalkıran and Nalan Erken were at the Kartal Aslantepe Police Station; Veli Acu and Günal Kurşun at the Kartal Topselvi Police Station; Necat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli at the Pendik Esenyalı Police Station; and AI Turkey director İdil Eser was taken to the Cumhuriyet Police Station in Istanbul’s Maltepe district.

The owner of the hotel, who was also detained with the activists, was released, while the two foreign trainers, a German and a Swedish national, were kept at a police station on Büyükada.

There is still no information as to what they are accused of and why they were taken to different police stations. (SCF with July 9, 2017

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