Press Release: Turkey: Provisional release of trade unionists and human rights defenders

Urgent Appeal

Paris-Geneva, April 12, 2013. The 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), welcomes the release of 22 Turkish trade unionists and human rights defenders accused of membership with an illegal organisation.

On April 10, 2013, 22 trade-unionists were provisionally released. However, charges are still pending against them and the next hearing in their trial is scheduled for July 8, 2013.

The 22 trade-unionists released were among the 28 who had been arrested and subsequently placed on pre-trial detention[1] in June 2012 on charges of “being a member of an illegal organisation” under Article 314 of Turkish Penal Code (TPC), in the framework of an anti-terrorist operation intended to dismantle the alleged terrorist network KCK[2]. The remaining 6 out of the 28 had already been released on February 15, 2013[3].

“We are relieved that all the pre-trial detainees are now out of jail in that particular case, but we are concerned about the persistence of charges against them. We also deplore more generally that several leading human rights activists, including prominent lawyers and members of FIDH member organisation IHD remain detained, and we urge the Turkish authorities to have them all released and to drop all the charges against them” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today.

“Although we welcome the release of those 28 human rights defenders, we remain deeply concerned that justice continues to be used in Turkey as a weapon to repress, intimidate and punish human rights defenders. We also deplore 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”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock added.

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.

For further information, please contact:

• FIDH: Audrey Couprie / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39

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