Turkey urged to free human rights activists accused of spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’
A week after the arrests of three prominent human rights campaigners in Turkey, international advocates gathered at NYU Tuesday to urge the Turkish government to release the activists and to drop charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda.”
Journalist Ahmet Nesin, Reporters Without Borders representative Erol Onderoglu and the president of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, are being held in pretrial detention for guest-editing a Kurdish newspaper that often comes under fire by Turkish authorities.
Christine Mehta, a researcher at Physician for Human Rights, said Turkey has long been “muzzling activists seeking accountability” for human rights violations.
And Sarah Edkins, a spokeswoman for PEN America, said that Turkish authorities have “resorted to the same tactics used by the world’s worst jailers of writers and journalists like China.”
She called on Turkey to halt “this legal harassment, to depoliticize the judiciary, and to accept the universal right to free expression.”
With a trial date not set, the accused face up to 14 years in prison. Reporters Without Borders has been able to confirm the jailing of 10 other journalists, and the organization said there may be many more in the same plight.
The advocates said it was vital for the U.S. and the European Union to pressure the Turkish government and hold it accountable.
“The international community needs to continue to step in and speak out even more loudly in continued support of our colleagues in Turkey,” said Mehta.
In a defiant message from prison, Onderoglu wrote to Reporters Without Borders.
“Whether in prison or on the streets, together we will continue the fight for our rights,” he wrote.