Reportage. Six of the 10 human rights activists arrested for holding a meeting will remain in prison while awaiting trial, a court ruled Tuesday.

Turkish judges uphold imprisonment of Amnesty director

The judicial authorities of the Caglayan Court in Istanbul validated the arrests of six of the 10 human rights activists, including Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey.

They were stopped by the police two weeks ago on Buyukada Island, not far from downtown Istanbul, during a workshop dedicated to online security, organized by Amnesty.

The prison doors were opened for Ozlem Dalkiran (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Idil Eser, Gunal Kursun and Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association) and for Ali Garawi and Peter Steudtner, the two foreign workshop facilitators.

On the other hand, Nalan Erkem (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Ilknur Ustun (Women’s Coalition), Nejat Tastan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights) and Seyhmus Ozbekli (Rights Initiative) were released on bail and must present themselves daily to the authorities. The investigation into their activities is ongoing.

They are all accused of supporting terrorism. The interrogations so far, however, have marginally covered the workshops mentioned in the arrest warrant because they were organized without prior notification and, “under the cover of training activities,” they intended to teach participants how to hide information from police and third parties.

The questions asked of some of the activists have focused on their network of contacts: relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, whom the authorities linked to organizations deemed subversive or terrorist.

It is estimated that the first hearing will take place on Dec. 26. Since the initial optimism in the early days of arrest, the defense lawyers are now totally reserved.

Also, articles in some newspapers close to the government have helped to make matters worse for the activists. According to these columns, the 10 were accused of being agents of the CIA and British MI6 and displayed “a map of Turkey” during the meeting, to study new strategies to foment a popular uprising similar to that of Gezi Park, four years ago.

The allegations conveyed in the press, with the support of the testimony of parliamentarian Orhan Deligoz from the government party, the AKP, do not seem at the moment to find any support in the investigations conducted by the investigators.

The investigators were pressured further by the words of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference on July 9. He described the meeting in Buyukada as a continuation of July 15, the day of the attempted coup last year. At this point, the lawyers have begun to despair in the possibility of a quick release.

Eser is still held at the Taner Kılıç prison. He is a lawyer and president of Amnesty International in Turkey. He was arrested on July 9 on charges of links with the imam Fetullah Gülen’s network, who the Turkish government holds responsible for the attempted coup.

Meanwhile, the government has extended the state of emergency by another three months and for the fourth time, while the parliament is preparing to vote on the request for removal of parliamentary immunity for another 29 opposition members of parliament, 22 from the HDP Peoples party and seven from the CHP Republican party.

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