July 6 (UPI) — The Turkish government on Wednesday arrested nine members of the human rights group Amnesty International, charging them with being members of a terrorist organization.
Included in the roundup was Amnesty International Turkey Director Idil Eser, along with eight Amnesty members and two international trainers who were attending a seminar at the time of their arrest.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty called the detention a farce deserving of global condemnation.
“The absurdity of these accusations against Idil Eser and the nine others cannot disguise the very grave nature of this attack on some of the most prominent civil society organizations in Turkey,” Shetty said. “Their spurious detention while attending a routine workshop was bad enough: that they are now being investigated for membership of an ‘armed terrorist organization’ beggars belief.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overseen a harsh crackdown against dissidents after a failed coup last year. The government has arrested thousands of purported supporters of the coup effort, which Erdogan has said was engineered by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States.
Erdogan’s government alleged Amnesty is working with Gulen loyalists to foment opposition.
The arrests came less than a month after Amnesty’s Turkey chairman, Taner Kilic, also was arrested on terrorism-related charges in a separate roundup.
“If anyone was still in doubt of the endgame of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, they should not be now. There is to be no civil society, no criticism and no accountability in Erdogan’s Turkey,” Shetty said.
Eser and the others arrested Wednesday remain in police custody at several jails outside Istanbul. Amnesty called for their immediate and unconditional release, and for the government to drop all charges.