The undersigned organisations express their deepest concern regarding the decision of the court to place in detention 28 trade union members, including Osman Işçi.
On June 28-29, 2012, the Ankara Heavy Penal Court No. 12 decided to place Mr. Osman Işçi
, member of the Human Rights Association (İHD), EMHRN Executive Committee member and a member of Eğitim Sen, the Education and Science Workers Trade Union affiliated to the Confederation of Public Workers’ Trade Unions (KESK), on pre-trial detention. 27 other trade union members 
were also placed on pre-trial detention under charges of “being a member of an illegal organisation” under Article 314 of Turkish Penal Code (TPC). 25 have been provisionally released pending the outcome of the investigation.
All were detained at the beginning of this week by police forces in the framework of an anti-terrorist operation intended to dismantle the alleged terrorist network - the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) - an organisation said by the authorities to be the “urban branch” of the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Since 2009, several operations of this kind were launched targeting mostly peaceful Kurdish and pro-Kurdish activists. This last operation targeted members of trade unions affiliated to the KESK: the Egitim-Sen, SES (The Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services), BTS (United Trade Union of Transport Employees) in Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Ağrı, Bitlis, Siirt, Adana, Eskişehir Provinces.
All will remain in detention at least until the closing of the investigation, which could take place in up to 6 or 12 months. The Criminal Proceedings Law allows for up to 10 years of pre-trial detention, measure for which Turkey has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights several times. This law has been particularly used against human rights defenders over the past years, entailing the application of a set of rules less protective of the defense rights: excessive length of pre-trial detention, obstacles to the access of evidence against defendants making the appeal of detention extremely difficult, excessive length of criminal proceedings, impossibility to counter examine some witnesses, etc.
Our organisations are deeply concerned that the vague definition of terrorism and its interpretation by the courts has made it possible for prosecutors and judges to consider that the mere critic of the authorities for their human rights record may in itself be construed as a form of support to terrorist groups or evidence of membership in terrorist groups.
Therefore, our organisations call for the immediate and unconditional release of Osman Işçi and the 27 other trade union members since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to merely punish their human rights activities. We also request the authorities to guarantee immediate and full access to the criminal file by the defense lawyers.
More generally, we urge the authorities of Turkey to put an end to the judicial harassment faced by numerous human rights defenders in the country and to act in conformity with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
Front Line Defenders
Rehabilitation and Research Center for Torture Victims
Helsinki Yurttaşlar Derneği / Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey
İnsan Hakları Derneği/Human Rights Association (IHD) – Turkey
Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı/Human Rights Foundation (TIHV/HRFT) – Turkey
FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
EMHRN: Hayet Zeghiche: +32 488 08 00 41
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: + 41 22 809 49 39
Front Line Defenders: Jim Joughran: +353 1 212 3750
Human Rights Association (IHD) and TIHV/HRFT: Erdem Türközü: +90 312 230 35 67
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly: Kerem Çiftçioğlu: +90 532 408 26 26