Turkey’s war on human rights: 43 rights advocates in police custody for two days

The Human Rights Association (İHD) İstanbul Branch has announced on Monday that 43 human rights advocates, who were detained during their attempt to issue a statement for the press in Beşiktaş district in İstanbul, are still kept under police custody.

The human rights defenders rallied in front of Kartal Heykeli (Eagle Statue) to draw attention to the situation of arrested educators Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who are on the 152nd day of their hunger strike. However, the police intervened in the statement and detained 33 people. Later on, police assaulted the people who wanted to issue a statement about the detentions and the number of detainees increased to 43.

The İHD said that 43 people including İHD İstanbul Branch Chair attorney Gülseren Yoleri and Executive Board Member Doğan Özkan have been in custody for two days. Noting that 43 people were detained by being battered, the İHD said “The human rights advocates who wanted to exercise their democratic right were subjected to ill-treatment.”

The 43 rights advocates were released by an İstanbul court on Tuesday with judicial probation.

Gülmen and Özakça, who were on the 76th day of a hunger strike when they were arrested on terror charges on May 23 in Ankara, said their strike aims to draw attention to the situation of more than 150,000 dismissed state employees.

Previously eight human rights activists, including Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey director İdil Eser, who were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada, were later put in pre-trial arrest by an İstanbul court.

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 Şeyhmuz Özbekli, and Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association. Two foreign trainers — a German and a Swedish national — as well as the hotel owner, who was later released, were among the detainees.

Taner Kılıç, a lawyer and chairman of AI’s Turkey’s board, was earlier 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.

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