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Two previously released human rights defenders detained again

Photo Credit: Gazete Karınca

Two of four human rights defenders who were previously detained and released earlier this week in İstanbul were detained again on Saturday, according to reports in the Turkish media.

Another six had already been jailed on charges of terrorism on Monday.

The rights defenders in custody are Nalan Erkem from the Citizens’ Assembly and İlknur Üstün of Women’s Coalition, who were taken to police stations in İstanbul and Ankara, respectively.

On Friday İstanbul’s Adalar Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for four human rights defenders who had been released on judicial probation on Tuesday after they were detained along with six others on July 5 during a workshop on İstanbul’s Büyükada.

Detention warrants were issued for Erkem, Şeyhmus Özbekli, Nejat Taştan and Üstün.

Turkish police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided a hotel on Büyükada, one of the Princes’ Islands off İstanbul, and detained İdil Eser from AI, Üstün from the Women’s Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun from the Human Rights Agenda Association, lawyer Erkem from the Citizens Assembly, Taştan from the Equal Rights Watch Association, Özlem Dalkıran from the Citizens’ Assembly, lawyer Özbekli, Veli Acu from the Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers, Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner.

After being interrogated at the anti-terror branch of the İstanbul Police Department on the 12th day of their detention, 10 human rights defenders who are accused of membership in a terrorist organization were referred to the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan on Monday morning. Six of the activists were subsequently arrested, while the court decided to release four of them on judicial probation.

The court overseeing their case ruled to arrest Eser along with five other activists: Dalkıran, Acu, Kurşun and trainers Garawi and Steudtner. The accusation leveled against them was “abetting a terrorist organization.”

AI Secretary-General Salil Shetty harshly criticized the decision and asked leaders around the world to “bring pressure to bear on Turkish authorities to drop these spurious charges and to immediately and unconditionally release the rights defenders,” in a statement he made on Tuesday.

Expressing concern about the current situation of justice in Turkey, Shetty said: “The decision to proceed shows that truth and justice have become total strangers in Turkey.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt during a press conference on July 8.

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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