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Turkey: GCHR stands in solidarity with rights defenders detained in Turkey and calls for their immediate release

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) expresses serious concern about the recent detention of human rights defenders and trainers at a workshop in Turkey on 05 July. We stand in solidarity with all human rights defenders including our colleagues and friends who were detained or otherwise affected by this crackdown in Turkey.

Eight rights defenders, including prominent members of the women’s movement, and two trainers were arrested at a digital security workshop on 05 July 2017 after Turkish police raided the Ascot hotel on the Island of Buyukada. All ten individuals were held incommunicado for over 24 hours, with later reports indicating that they were being held in five different locations.

On 06 July, the eight human rights defenders and two trainers were ordered held for seven days in pre-trial detention, the maximum period of time permitted to hold detainees without charge under the Turkish State of Emergency. Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, was among those detained and Amnesty International has reported that she is being investigated for “membership in a terrorist organisation.”

There is no information about the other nine detainees who include GCHR’s friend and supporter Özlem Dalkıran of the Citizens’ Assembly, as well as Nalan Erkem, a lawyer for the Citizens Assembly. The others are İlknur Üstün of the Women's Coalition, lawyer Günal Kurşun and Veli Acu, both of Human Rights Agenda Association, Nejat Taştan of Equal Rights Watch Association, and lawyer Şeyhmuz Özbekli. The trainers are Ali Gharawi and Peter Steudtner, both IT consultants.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested and detained in Turkey in the past year since a failed coup in July 2016. Over 130 journalists and media workers are currently detained in Turkey, making the country the largest jailer of journalists in the world according to press freedom groups. As well, many human rights defenders and members of civil society have also been arrested. Taner Kiliç, Chair of the Amnesty International Turkey Board, was arrested for similar charges relating to alleged “association with a terrorist organisation.”

The GCHR condemns in the strongest terms the continued imprisonment of the human rights defenders and trainers which is solely due to their peaceful and legitimate human rights activities.

GCHR calls on the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey to:
1. Immediately and without any conditions release the human rights defenders and trainers arrested during the workshop on 05 July;
2. Ensure that NGOs in Turkey are allowed to carry out their capacity building training in a safe environment; and
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders and their organizations in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.