Turkish authorities have extended for another week the detention of a member of Amnesty International and nine other activists.
Researchers working for Amnesty in Turkey said on Tuesday that Idil Eser, the country director of the rights group, would remain in police custody until July 19.
Eser was arrested on July 5 along with seven other activists and two foreign trainers on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul. The group were attending a workshop on digital security and information management.
Rights campaigners have criticized Turkey for the detention, saying it was another sign of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lack of tolerance for freedom of expression. Erdogan has said that the activists were like those contributing to a failed coup in Turkey last year.
“They gathered for a meeting which was a continuation of July 15,” Erdogan said on Saturday, referring to the coup attempt against his government, which sparked a massive crackdown across the country and allowed the police and security forces to act with more freedom under a state of emergency. The extension in detention of the Amnesty member and other activists is allowed under the measure.
Amnesty’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said on Tuesday that the activists had illegally been kept under custody as they had no access to lawyers and could not contact family members. Turkish authorities also refused to reveal where the activists had been held.
Two of the arrested activists were foreign trainers of the digital information workshop, a German and a Swedish national. The remaining eight were Turkish human rights defenders, including Ilknur Ustun of the Women’s Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association.
Prosecutors have accused them of membership in an “armed terrorist organisation”. The Britain-based Amnesty has dismissed the allegations as “unfounded”.
A judge would decide after July 19 whether to formally charge the activists and place them under arrest ahead of trial.
Amnesty’s Europe director John Dalhuisen condemned the decision to extend the detention, saying it was a violation of basic rights for freedom of expression.
“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,” said Dalhuisen.
More than 40,000 people have been arrested as part of Turkey’s crackdown on suspected plotters and sympathizers of the coup attempt. A further 100,000 people have been discharged from jobs over the same accusations.
Last month, Turkey arrested Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic on accusation of collaborating with coup plotters.