About the recent detention and arrest of NGO activists and academics

From left to right: Asena Günal, Turgut Tarhanlı, Betül Tanbay, Meltem Aslan, Çiğdem Mater

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Thank you very much for the solidarity and support you have shown for the new wave of detentions against the civil society which included our co-director Meltem Aslan and chair of the board Yiğit Ekmekçi.

Unfortunately one of the 13 detained on the morning of November 16, Yiğit Aksakoğlu was arrested. The remaining 12 were released from the police headquarters in the following days.

As you know 13 civil society figures in Turkey, in connection with the investigation into jailed civil society leader Osman Kavala, were detained from their place of residence at 6.00 am with an operation of organized crimes police.

According to information from the Istanbul Security Directorate, detainees included Anadolu Kültür staff alongside prominent civil society actors. Those detained are Asena Günal, Ayşegül Güzel, Bora Sarı, Çiğdem Mater, Filiz Telek, Hakan Altınay, Hande Özhabeş, Meltem Aslan, Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Yusuf Cıvır as well as Turgut Tarhanlı, a prominent human rights law professor, Betül Tanbay, professor of mathematics. They were accused under article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code, organizing a coup to overthrow the government. The conviction for that is aggravated life imprisonment.

Amnesty International has summarized the background of the operation as:

‘’Detention orders have reportedly been issued against 20 individuals in four Turkish cities in relation to alleged activities around the overwhelmingly peaceful ‘Gezi Park’ protests that took place across Turkey following the violent police dispersal of a small group of protestors in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in May 2013. The 13 individuals included civil society actors connected to Anadolu Kültür, a civil society organization led by Osman Kavala, and the Open Society Institute where he was a board member in Turkey.

…The allegations against those detained include organizing meetings to “deepen and spread” the Gezi Park protests, inviting trainers and moderators on the subjects of “civil disobedience and non-violent activism,” carrying out media activities to continue the “Gezi Park process” and activities to stop the export of tear gas to Turkey. Even if true, all these are legitimate activities protected under the rights to freedom of expression, association and the right to peaceful assembly.’’

Yiğit Aksakoğlu is a prominent member of civil society in Turkey.

There is no information yet whether the 13 will be indicted or not but they are released with an international travel ban.

Yiğit Aksakoğlu who is a prominent member of the Turkish civil society is unfortunately arrested.

As this incident once again shows, the crackdown against civil society continues. We will continue with our work and defending our basic rights, including our right to fair trial and innocence until proven guilty, freedom of speech, freedom to organize.

Your support and solidarity in this struggle is invaluable.