Turkey extends detention of activists, Amnesty International says — Swedish lawmakers file ‘genocide’ complaint against Turkey’s Erdogan


© AFP/File | There are fears of declining freedom of expression under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has extended for up to a week the detention of the country director of Amnesty International and nine other people held in a controversial police raid, the UK-based rights group said Tuesday.

Idil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained on July 5 along with seven other activists and two foreign trainers during a digital security and information management workshop on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul.

Their detention caused international alarm and amplified fears of declining freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The police detention will now last until July 19, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told AFP.

They then must appear before a judge who rules whether they should be formally charged and placed under arrest ahead of trial.

Eight of those detained are Turkish human rights defenders, including Ilknur Ustun of the Women’s Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association.

Two are foreign trainers — a German and a Swedish national — who were leading the digital information workshop.

They are accused of membership of an “armed terrorist organisation”, an allegation Amnesty said was “unfounded”.

But it is not clear which organisation they are accused of belonging to, Gardner said.

The extension is allowed under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s failed coup.

A prosecutor can extend the detention of an individual held on terror-related charges for up to seven days. Previously, the maximum number of days of pre-charge detention was four.

Gardner argued the first part of their detention was illegal because they were denied access to lawyers for 24 hours, could not contact family members where they were and authorities refused to give their location.

“For them to be entering a second week in police cells is a shocking indictment of the ruthless treatment of those who attempt to stand up for human rights in Turkey,” Amnesty’s Europe director John Dalhuisen said.

Erdogan compared the activists to coup plotters, saying they were trying to fulfil the aims of those involved in the July 15 coup bid.

“They gathered for a meeting which was a continuation of July 15,” he said on Saturday.

Last month, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic was arrested, accused of links to US-based Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of ordering last year’s failed coup.

Amnesty also dismissed those charges as “baseless”.


Swedish lawmakers file ‘genocide’ complaint against Turkey’s Erdogan

Posted on July 11, 2017

STOCKHOLM,— A group of Swedish lawmakers said Monday they have filed a legal complaint accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Kurdish southeast of his country.

The complaint signed by five lawmakers from the Left and Green parties is the first of its kind in Sweden against a head of state.

The suit relates to the conflict in Turkey’s Kurdish region in the country’s southeast [Turkish Kurdistan], which has been battered by renewed fighting between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces since a fragile truce collapsed in 2015.

“We are five lawmakers handing in a complaint… (requesting) punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Annika Lillemets, a MP for the Left party, told a news conference in Stockholm.

The complaint, filed to the Swedish International Public Prosecution Offices, names Erdogan and several ministers including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

A Swedish law adopted in 2014 allows the country’s courts to judge cases of alleged crimes against humanity regardless of where they have been committed or by whom.

The law stipulates that “anyone, who in order to completely or partially destroy a national or ethnic group of people” kills, causes serious pain or injury is “guilty of genocide”.

The Public Prosecution Offices said it would now decide whether to initiate a preliminary investigation, adding that “it may take a while”.

If prosecutors decide to launch an investigation, Erdogan could risk an arrest warrant in Sweden, the lawmakers said.

Carl Schlyter, an MP for the Greens, said he hoped other lawmakers in European countries would follow their move.

“If (Erdogan) is hindered from roaming around in Europe and influencing European countries the way he wants, then I hope that this will affect his politics,” he said.

Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.

Activists have accused the Turkish security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.

Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority. Activists have accused the security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.

In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.

The UN Human Rights Office in March released a report on allegations of “massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations committed” between July 2015 and December 2016 in Turkey’s southeast.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.

More than 40,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels, have been killed in the conflict.

A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.



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