Human rights defenders in Turkey blast detention of activists

Several Turkish human rights associations have slammed a number of media reports on the recent detention of human rights activists for “defaming and criminalizing” the rights activists.

Ten human rights activists were detained on July 5 at a conference on Istanbul’s Büyükada Island, prompting a number of pro-government media outlets to accuse them of being involved in “intelligence activities” with foreign powers.

“It is impossible for us to accept news articles defaming and criminalizing them despite official statements that the investigations are still ongoing. Issues that have not even been told to lawyers and suspects, and those not included in the investigation files, are published as though they were real,” Human Rights Association (İHD) president Öztürk Türkdoğan said in a joint press conference on July 11.

“The way the activists were detained, the treatment they faced and the articles published about them are violating the principle of the presumption of innocence and human rights,” Türkdoğan said in the conference attended by six rights groups including Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, the Human Rights Association (İHD), and the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV).

“[News reports] have spoken about Gezi [2013 anti-government protests], or a new coup attempt. These things are beyond imagination,” he added.

‘Unknown accusations’

Oya Aydın, a lawyer, said lawyers have not been able to obtain information about the accusations as a confidentiality order has been imposed on the investigation.

“All authorities that we have been able to contact are saying that the investigation was launched after a denunciation. Thus, we are aware that we are not facing a usual prosecution investigation, which usually is based on prepared evidences,” Aydın said.

“The investigation file was given to the prosecutor two or three days after their detention. And the file did not include any evidence,” she added.

Saying that house raids on detainees’ addresses were still ongoing and the official search reports included terms like “involvement in and abetting terror,” Aydın noted that such language was “not normal.”

“What we have understood from these reports is that there is a denunciation and what our friends are being accused of is not clearly certain in the file. They were seized, detained, and the authorities will decide whether there is a crime based on evidence seized after the detention,” she added.

Date, participants determined months ago

Feray Salman, the general coordinator for the Human Rights Joint Platform, said the dates and the structure of the meeting in Büyükada were determined in a meeting in April in the southern province of Antalya.

Salman said the content of the meeting was within the framework of “capacity building” and that on the first two days of the meeting there were workshops on digital security for the human rights defenders.

“Peter Steudner was a facilitator at the workshop on the effects of the shocking and escalating violent environment in the country in the last two years against human rights defenders and the ways in which human rights defenders had to deal with these issues. Ali Gharavi was another facilitator at the workshop on providing web security against hate offences toward non-governmental organizations’ websites,” she said.

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