Turkish police detained 79 followers of jailed anti-government Islamist leader Alpaslan Kuytul as they got off a ferry in İstanbul, according to a report by the group’s online news outlet Furkan Haber on Monday.
The group, made up of men, women and children, had reportedly traveled from Eminönü on the European side of İstanbul to Üsküdar on the Asian side on an outing, but police there demanded they take off scarves bearing the words “Freedom for Alpaslan Kuytul.”
The group, members of Kuytul’s Furkan Foundation, refused to comply and after being made to wait for some hours on Sunday, were detained for the alleged crime of “praising a crime and a criminal,” the website reported Some members of the group tweeted criticism of the police on social media.
Kuytul was arrested on Jan. 30, 2018 and is being tried on charges of “leading a criminal organization” that allegedly aimed at carrying out activities threatening the public order. The leader of the small Islamist group was an outspoken critic of the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the so-called executive presidential system in the country.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, said on Twitter that Turkey had been turned into a huge prison and that the police had violated the freedom of travel and had mistreated even children.