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New Amnesty campaign urges Turkish authorities to end ban on Saturday Mothers protests

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Amnesty International has launched a campaign to petition Turkish authorities to remove the ban on the weekly protest vigils of the Saturday Mothers, a group of activists seeking accountability for their loved ones who disappeared in police custody in the 1980s and 1990s, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

“In recent weeks, riot police have again used unnecessary force during detention of the rights defenders and widened their security perimeter preventing independent observation by journalists and civil society organizations,” Amnesty said.

The advocacy group’s website published a module allowing individuals to petition Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya by email or by post demanding the removal of the ban on the activist group’s peaceful protests.

The Saturday Mothers, who first gathered on May 27, 1995, in Galatasaray Square on İstanbul’s İstiklal Street and have continued meeting there every Saturday for a silent protest since then, has staged the longest-running protest Turkey has ever witnessed.

The vigils, which saw the participation of larger numbers of people on landmark dates such as the 500th and 600th weeks, had been held peacefully without any restrictions by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government until the 700th week in 2018, when dozens of protestors were detained after police broke up the protest.

The trial of the 46 people who were detained during the 700th gathering and are facing charges of “participating in unlawful meetings and marches and refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force” is ongoing.

The Constitutional Court ruled on November 16, 2022 that the police intervention in the 700th-week vigil was a violation of the right to freedom of assembly.

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