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Rights defenders in Turkey face unrelenting pressure from gov’t: report

Amnesty International staff, alongside supporters from RSF, Index on Censorship and English Pen, outside the Turkish Embassy In London, England, 12th July, 2017. Activists in more than 30 countries will join protests outside Turkish embassies this week demanding the release of Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair and Director as well as other prominent human rights defenders behind bars amid a spiralling crackdown. The demonstrations mark one month since the organisation’s Chair, Taner Kiliç, was remanded in prison on baseless charges, and five days since the Director, Idil Eser, was detained alongside seven other prominent human rights activists. They all face criminal investigations on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organisation’. Amnesty International Ireland will hold a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy on Wednesday, 12 July at 1pm.

Human rights defenders in Turkey have been under unrelenting pressure, with 1,098 taken into custody and 33 arrested between March 1 and August 31, according to a fact sheet released by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV-HRFT), the Kronos news website reported.

In what amounts to judicial harassment, false charges have been leveled against rights activists, particularly charges of insulting the Turkish president to paralyze their activities, the fact sheet said.

“Fifty-five hearings were held in the trials of 338 rights activists, including more than 20 lawyers, 87 women’s and LGBTI+ rights defenders and seven environmental activists,” it said, adding, “Criminal prosecutions were launched against 26 activists, 18 of whom were lawyers.”

According to the fact sheet, the COVID-19 pandemic has frequently been used a pretext to restrict human rights and freedoms, particularly in prisons.

“Two hundred ninety rights activists were fined 909,598 Turkish lira on charges of violating COVID-19 measures by participating in demonstrations,” it said.

The fact sheet noted that human rights and freedoms have been unlawfully restricted by decrees and circulars, particularly including emergency decrees.

“A 729-day ban on assemblies and demonstrations was imposed in 19 provinces and three districts. In one district, an indefinite ban was enforced,” it said.

The police have intervened in at least 124 assemblies and demonstrations, while 21 events have been prohibited during the period in question. Indefinite curfews were declared in 80 villages.

The internationally recognized TİHV, established in 1990, has been providing treatment and rehabilitation services for torture survivors and their relatives in Turkey and is trying to prevent more human rights violations.

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