Amnesty International (AI) on Friday addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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.
Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, on Wednesday raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained İdil 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 also detained.
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.”