Turkish prosecutor wants Amnesty director jailed pending trial

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan chairs a National Security Council meeting in Ankara. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Palace/Handout/Reuters)

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s state prosecutor on Monday asked a court to remand the local Amnesty International director and nine other human rights activists in custody pending trial for membership in a “terrorist organization,” opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu said.

Idil Eser and the others were detained on July 5 as they held a meeting at a hotel near Istanbul, and taken to various police stations, a month after Amnesty Turkey’s board chairman, Taner Kilic, was arrested on the same charge. Amnesty called the detentions a “grotesque abuse of power.”

An attempted military coup a year ago triggered a sweeping crackdown on people whom authorities say they suspect of links to the network of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for the coup.

More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 150,000 dismissed or suspended from their jobs, including soldiers, police, teachers, judges and other public servants.

On Friday, more than 7,000 police, civil servants and academics were dismissed, the day before hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets to commemorate the thwarting of the coup.

Eser and those detained with him had been attending a workshop on digital security and information management. Among those arrested were two foreign trainers — a German and a Swedish national.

The United States has said it is “deeply concerned” by the detentions.

The purge, which has also led to the closure of some 130 media outlets and the jailing of 150 journalists, has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups, who say President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent.

Some 250 people were killed in last year’s coup attempt, and the government has said the security measures are necessary because of the gravity of the threats facing Turkey. Gulen has condemned the coup attempt and denied involvement.