On December 3rd, demonstrations were held in Istanbul and 40 provinces of Turkey, protesting lengthy pre-trial detentions, mass custodies and arrests, and called for the abolishment of Turkey’s draconian anti-terrorist law. In Istanbul alone, some 2000 persons, including the Deputy Chair of the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party, engineers, architects and doctors joined in the demonstration.
As we noted in a previous blog, thousands of Turkish citizens have been imprisoned and await trials—some for over two years–under this law. Those arrested and imprisoned have even included lawyers defending others who were incarcerated.
In its most recent Annual Human Rights Report, Amnesty International again underlined the violations of freedom of speech carried out under the anti-terrorism law.
The anti-terrorism laws, carrying higher prison sentences and resulting in pre-trial detention orders, were used to stifle legitimate free expression. Kurdish political activists, journalists and human rights defenders were among those most frequently prosecuted.
On December 1st, Turkish president Abdullah Gul, in a response to questions submitted by internet users, said “[t]he lengthy detentions are becoming a punishment and I’m really disturbed. The trials must be accelerated. The crimes of those people, if any, must be determined as soon as possible, or else they must be set free.” We can only hope President Gul’s statement will soon be translated into action by the Turkish government. Meanwhile, large numbers of Turkish lawyers, human rights defenders, politicians, academics, writers and publishers continue to remain locked up, victims of an anti-terrorism law desperately in need of repeal.