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Amnesty calls detention of human rights defenders ‘grotesque abuse of power’

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Amnesty International (AI) Secretary-General Salil Shetty has harshly criticized the detention of AI Turkey Director İdil Eser along with seven other human rights activists and two trainers during a workshop in İstanbul on Wednesday, calling it “a grotesque abuse of power.”

Eser was detained on Wednesday along with the nine others during a digital security and information management workshop on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul.

“Her [Eser’s] incommunicado detention and that of the other human rights defenders attending a routine training event, is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country. İdil Eser and those detained with her, must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Shetty in a statement on Thursday, referring to vulnerable situation of human rights defenders in Turkey.

Police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided the hotel in Büyükada and detained 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, were also detained.

Shetty, who expressed strong concern over the detention of the activists, said: “We are profoundly disturbed and outraged that some of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders, including the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, should have been detained so blatantly without cause.”

The whereabouts of those detained is currently unknown.

According to AI, Eser and the other detainees do not have access to lawyers or the right to contact a family member.

Shetty also called on the countries attending the G-20 summit in Hamburg on July 7-8 to demand the freeing of the imprisoned activists. “World leaders currently sitting in Hamburg have been remarkably tolerant of Turkey’s human rights meltdown. With President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan now in their midst, this would be a good time to speak out firmly and call for the release of all human rights defenders currently behind bars,” he said.

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.

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