Press release

Turkey: Authorities arrest ‘orchestrators’ of Gezi Park protests under guise of combating terrorism

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ARTICLE 19

17 Jul 2013

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ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the approximately 55 people that were taken into police custody yesterday morning, after the Anti-Terror Unit of the Istanbul Police Force conducted co-ordinated, city-wide raids on 104 addresses in Istanbul.

“Turkey has faced significant international criticism in the past for using overly broad anti-terror laws to stifle dissenting speech, free association and ostensibly peaceful protests,” said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19. “ARTICLE 19 is concerned that an investigation into legitimate protests is once again being conducted under the guise of combatting terrorism,” she added.

According to local media the raids started at 4am on 16 July. Turkey’s national security forces are reported to have stated that they targeted “individuals caught engaging in provocative behaviour on closed circuit television and police cameras during the protests.” The same source singled out members of youth organisations, such as the Turkish Youth Association (TGB), Student Collectives, and Young Hope, as well as members of the People’s Salvation Army (HKP), as among those arrested as ‘orchestrators’ of the protests.

Speaking to the Turkish daily newspaper Radikal, lawyer Mehmet Ümit Erdem indicated that the Anti-Terror Unit had been granted permission to continue raids within a 72 hour administrative window starting from 4am on 16 July. Reports indicate that student dormitories are among the 104 addresses raided. The material seized includes computer harddrives, books, CDs and DVDs, particularly those with key words such as ‘resist’ and ‘strike’ in the titles.

With raids ongoing ARTICLE 19 expects the number of people in custody to rise. However, no-one has been charged yet.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Turkish authorities to ensure that anti-terror laws are only used to prevent acts of serious crime that pose a serious threat to life, safety or property, and that are intended to inflict terror on the public.

Background

Turkey has been engulfed by nationwide protests since the heavy-handed police crackdown on protesters occupying Taksim Square’s Gezi Park in late May 2013. In response to police brutality, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Taksim, sparking a nationwide movement of those dissatisfied with the current government lead by the Justice and Development Party (AKP. Despite increasing use of force from the police – including tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets – the protests have continued through June and into July.

Observers have remarked that the protests are an unprecedented show of solidarity from a myriad of disparate political factions and previously opposed groups.

Prior to today’s raids, police in Istanbul had already started arrests in small and sporadic batches. Most notably on 12 July, 12 members of Taksim Solidarity were charged with “founding a criminal organisation” under Article 220 of the Turkish Penal Code. If convicted, they face up to six years in prison.