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Turkey keeps 24 workers behind bars over Istanbul airport protests

Hundreds of workers were temporarily detained for protesting labour violations art the new airport [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 September, 2018

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After almost 600 workers were detained for protesting 'slave-like working conditions' at Istanbul's new airport, 24 remain in jail while managers pledge to improve the situation

A Turkish court on Wednesday ordered 24 workers and union activists to remain in jail after they were detained in a mass crackdown over protests on working conditions at Istanbul's giant new airport.

Almost 600 workers from the airport had been rounded up at the weekend after reportedly protesting and taking industrial action over alleged labour violations in the frenetic construction to finish the airport on time for its opening next month.

The airport, which has yet to be officially named, is a key project championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make Istanbul a global travel hub and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant.

But workers at the airport have made complaints ranging from alleged violations of labour safety which led to dozens of deaths on the site, to a lack of properly-organised transport to take them to and from the new airport close to the Black Sea.

Some 36,000 people are working at the site as the clock ticks to the official opening on October 29 and complete shift of flights from Ataturk International Airport which is then to be immediately closed.


An official in the airport's construction told the FT that the team were given 42 months to complete the project, which would have normally taken a decade.

Most of those detained in the weekend sweep were released without charge but 43 appeared before a judge at a court in the Istanbul district of Gaziosmanpasa late Tuesday.

Of them, 24 were remanded in custody while 19 were allowed to go free under judicial control, the DHA news agency reported.

The figures were confirmed by construction labour union Insaat Is-Sendikasi on its Twitter account. There had been uproar on social media over the initial detentions under hashtag #Koledegiliz ("we are not slaves").

Those under arrest have been presented with charges including damaging public property, violating demonstration laws and defying police orders, DHA added.

The transport ministry had on Tuesday issued a statement blaming "marginal groups" for the protests and insisting that the official opening was still scheduled for October 29.

It said IGA - the Turkish consortium building the new airport - had talked to workers to discuss their demands and their problems.

"Measures were taken without any delay. The works are continuing," the ministry added.


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