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Jailed Turkish rights activists testify before prosecutors

At least 50,000 people have been detained following Turkey's 2016 failed coup. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2017

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Ten Turkish human rights activists appeared before a court in Istanbul on Monday in a case Amnesty International criticised as a 'travesty of justice'.

Ten Turkish human rights activists appeared before a court in Istanbul on Monday in a case Amnesty International criticised as a "travesty of justice."

Director of Amnesty International Turkey Idil Eser was detained on 5 July together with seven activists and two foreign trainers during a workshop on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul.

The arrests sparked international condemnation and amplified fears of declining freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The activists are not yet on trial, and were giving statements to the prosecutor for the first time since their arrest.

Either the detainees will be released or "unfortunately, we could see the continuation of this process where the government has targeted all critical voices, in particular human rights civil society," Amnesty's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said.

All ten detainees are accused of being members of an "armed terrorist organisation", a charge Amnesty said was "unfounded".

Post-coup purge

"Turkey will be disgraced in the eyes of the world if these human rights defenders are put in prison for defending human rights," Gardner told reporters outside of the court, calling for their immediate release.

Turkey said the activists were detained after a tip-off that they were working against the government, with Erdogan comparing them to plotters in last year's failed July coup.

"What is absolutely crystal clear, one hundred percent clear is this was a routine human rights workshop - the sort of workshop that happens all over Turkey, in fact the sort of workshop that happens all over the world," Gardner said.

Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic was detained last month and accused of links to US-based Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of ordering last year's coup, a charge he denies.

Erdogan declared a state of emergency days after the coup and launched a widespread purge of state institutions, arresting 50,000 people and firing 100,000 from government jobs.

The state of emergency was renewed on Monday following a vote in parliament.

The crackdown has targeted politicians, activists, and journalists.

"It's no exaggeration to say that Amnesty International in Turkey and in fact the whole of the Human Rights movement here in Turkey faces an existential threat," Gardner said.

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