Turkey: Director of Amnesty International Turkey and other activists must be released

English PEN joins PEN International in calling for the immediate release of Idil Eser and other human rights defenders


The Turkish authorities should immediately release Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, as well as seven human rights defenders and two trainers who were detained after taking part in a workshop.

They were taken away by police on 5 July 2017 as they were taking part in a digital security and information management workshop on the island of Büyükada near Istanbul. According to Amnesty International, they were initially held incommunicado and denied access to lawyers and family. Latest media reports say they are currently being held in five different police stations.

Maureen Freely, President of English PEN, said:

This is shocking news that bodes ill for all human rights activists in Turkey.

Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International, said:

We are appalled by the outrageous detention of Idil Eser and her colleagues and are calling for their immediate and unconditional release. We express our heartfelt solidarity with those working to advance human rights in Turkey and with those whose voice has been all but silenced by the authorities. This relentless crackdown must end once and for all.

This latest string of arrests once again sheds light on the sustained onslaught on civil society and freedom of expression in Turkey. Following the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, the Turkish authorities have pursued an unprecedented crackdown against perceived critics and opponents. Over 160 media outlets and publishing houses closed down since July 2016 and around 165 journalists and media workers have been jailed pending trial. Over 145,000 civil servants have been summarily dismissed, with over 47,000 including army, police and teachers jailed pending trial on charges of involvement in the coup plot and of association with the alleged ‘Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation’ (FETÖ).

PEN urges the Turkish authorities to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression. As world leaders gather at the G20 summit in Hamburg, the organisation further calls on the international community to urge Turkey to uphold freedom of expression, in line with their international human rights obligations.

Additional information

Those detained since 5 July 2017 include Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition, Günal Kurşun , lawyer, Human Rights Agenda Association, Nalan Erkem, Lawyer, Citizens Assembly, Nejat Taştan, Equal Rights Watch Association , Özlem Dalkıran, Citizens’ Assembly, Şeyhmuz Özbekli, lawyer, Veli Acu, Human Rights Agenda Association and two foreign trainers.

Amnesty International’s Turkey chair, Taner Kiliç, remains in custody on charges of membership of FETÖ.


Spread the word

Share this page with friends and colleagues and on social media, ideally with the hashtags #FreeRightsDefenders, #Istanbul10 and #FreeIdilEser and tagging @englishpen.

Write to the authorities

Send an email to the Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ via our colleagues at Amnesty International UK.

Join our vigil

English PEN will join colleagues from Amnesty UK, Index on Censorship and Reporters Without Borders for a vigil at the Turkish Embassy in London on 12 July, 12 – 1pm. Please join us at 43 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8PA to show your support.


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