Arrest of rights activists ‘chills’ Turkey’s civil society

Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser, pictured here, was one of the 10 people detained as part of a terrorism probe. Posted on July 10, 2017. (photo by Twitter/@englishpen)

Arrest of rights activists ‘chills’ Turkey’s civil society

Author: Ayla Jean Yackley

The detention of human rights activists and academics ahead of the anniversary of the failed July 15, 2016, military coup in Turkey has rattled a once-vibrant civil society, fearful the government is broadening its yearlong clampdown that has already ensnared tens of thousands of people.

SummaryPrint Turkish civil society grapples with the arrests of human rights activists and academics as the government marks the anniversary of the failed military coup.

On July 5, police raided a hotel on an island off the Istanbul coast where leading rights groups had gathered for a training seminar. Ten people, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser, were detained in a terrorism probe.

Then on July 10, police arrested 42 university staff members, including Koray Caliskan, a former adviser to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). They are seeking another 30 academics suspected of links to the bungled coup. 

Caliskan was sent to house arrest late on Friday, media reported.

“We have crossed a new threshold,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s researcher on Turkey. “Under the post-coup attempt crackdown, there has been a huge number of assaults on civil society, critical journalists and the political opposition. But this is a direct attack on the backbone of human rights.”

The detentions come as the nation commemorates the first anniversary of the coup attempt, when a faction of the army sought to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a spasm of violence that killed more than 240 people.

Since then, 50,000 people have been jailed and another 100,000 teachers, judges, police officers and others have been fired from state jobs. A state of emergency that has allowed Erdogan to effectively rule by decree is set to be extended again when it expires next week.

Erdogan has defended the measures as essential to weed out putschists and their sympathizers and restore democratic order. The government blames the coup on followers of Islamic…

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