Özgür Karabulut, chairman of the Dev Yapı-İş labor union, has been arrested by an Istanbul court over his role in recent protests staged by İstanbul airport construction workers, the T24 news website reported on Friday.
Dev Yapı-İş on Thursday announced on Twitter that Karabulut had been detained by the police. “Our chairman is accused of defending the rights of the third airport construction workers. What is more natural than a union leader defending the rights of workers and members of the union?” it tweeted.
The union had said that six of its members have been arrested over the airport protests.
A total of 34 people have been arrested since a strike on Sept. 14 over substandard working conditions in the construction site of the İstanbul’s third airport.
The workers previously said that an overwhelmingly high number of workplace accidents have occurred, resulting in deaths and injuries on a daily basis.
They also complained about food and housing on the construction site, claiming that their rooms were full of bed bugs and fleas, which led a number of workers to quit.
Workers were reportedly under pressure to finish the project as soon as possible in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an impossible task according to observers given the size of the project.
According to the Turkish media, the opening of the airport could be postponed until December.
When finished, İstanbul’s new airport will be the fifth largest in the world with its 77-square-kilometer airfield.
Even though it has been referred to as İstanbul’s third airport in the Turkish media, since İstanbul Atatürk Airport is scheduled to be closed to all flights on Oct. 31, the city will continue have only two airports, the other being Sabiha Gökçen.
Located on the Black Sea, it will initially have the capacity to handle around 90 million passengers per year, but that number is expected to rise to 150 million by 2023, according to the media.