Iverna McGowan, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said ahead of a European Council meeting on Oct. 19 and 20 which is expected to issue conclusions on Turkey that European Union leaders must press Turkey on human rights.
In a statement on Wednesday McGowan said: “EU leaders must publicly condemn the brutal and protracted crackdown on human rights defenders and journalists in Turkey, and stand firmly on the side of human rights. They must call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey, including our colleagues.”
On Tuesday, AI held a birthday party in the European Parliament for its Turkey director, İdil Eser, who has been in pretrial detention in Turkey on terrorism charges since July 5 along with 10 other human rights defenders.
Eser’s birthday party in the EP was joined by a number of MEPs, including Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights Antonio Panzeri and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani who both called for her release.
“İdil has spent her birthday behind bars, where she has been for more than 100 days now, and where she could face spending 15 years on trumped up charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organization’. The grave injustices done to her and other human rights defenders in Turkey cannot be ignored by European leaders,” McGowan said.
Ten activists, including Eser, were detained on July 5 during a workshop at a hotel on İstanbul’s Büyükada and were put in pretrial detention by an İstanbul court on July 18 on charges of abetting a terrorist organization.
AI Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç was also put in pretrial detention a month earlier on charges of alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities blame for a failed coup last year.
On Oct. 4 a prosecutor filed an indictment calling for jail terms of up to 15 years for all 11 human rights defenders.
During a press conference in Hamburg on July 8 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the human rights defenders of plotting a follow-up to a July 15, 2016 coup attempt and signaled that the detention of the rights defenders could turn into imprisonment.
Charges against 10 of the Amnesty International-related human rights activists were reported to include membership in a terrorist organization. Charges of “terrorism,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda” have been increasingly employed by the Turkish government as a means of silencing the opposition and dissidents.