Secretary general of Amnesty International Salil Shetty. file photo: AFP
ISTANBUL (AP) — The secretary general of Amnesty International visited the rights group’s jailed Turkey director Saturday and called for her release, along with seven other activists being held in pre-trial detention for allegedly aiding a terror group.
Salil Shetty said Amnesty’s Idil Eser was doing well but added “The issue is really as to why is she in prison in the first instance?”
Police raided a hotel on the island of Buyukada near Istanbul in July and detained 10 activists during a workshop on digital security. Eight people, including German Peter Steudtner and Swede Ali Gharavi, were arrested. Two were released pending trial after surrendering their passports and must regularly present themselves at a police station. Germany has repeatedly called for Steudtner’s release.
“There is absolutely no evidence against the people who were in the Buyukada workshop,” Shetty said.
The activists are being accused of aiding armed terror organizations for communications with suspects linked to Kurdish and left-wing militants as well as the movement led by U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating last year’s coup attempt. Gulen has denied the claim.
Their arrests have added to widespread concerns about the erosion of rights and freedoms in Turkey. More than 50,000 people have been arrested after the failed July 2016 coup, including journalists and politicians, while more than 140 media organizations and nearly 2,000 NGOs have been shuttered.
Shetty said he spoke with Turkey’s minister of justice, Abdulhamit Gul, to allow Eser’s friends to visit her in prison as she has no immediate family.
“I hope that this appeal will reach friendly ears,” he said.
Amnesty’s chairman Taner Kilic was also arrested in June, accused of using an encrypted mobile messaging application allegedly used by Gulen’s network.
“Our call is very clear: These are human rights workers. They were doing nothing unlawful, they should be released immediately and unconditionally,” Shetty said.