Arrests of activists violate Turkey's commitment to rule of law, OSCE warns

The Permanent Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has released a statement expressing its concern at the detention of 13 scholars and civil society figures in Turkey on November 16.

“Repeated detentions of critical voices and the continued widespread pressure on civil society representatives are in violation of Turkey’s commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms and announced reforms in the field of rule of law and judiciary,” the OSCE said in its statement.

Prosecutors have said the 13 people were detained due to their suspected links to Osman Kavala, a Turkish businessman and philanthropist who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says coordinated nationwide protests in 2013 in an attempt to topple the government.

However, Kavala has been held for over a year without the precise charges against him being disclosed, the OSCE’s statement notes.

While 12 of the 13 have been released, the OSCE said it remained concerned about both Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, the activist who has remained in detention, and called on Turkey to release all persons detained without due process.

“We urge the Turkish authorities to ensure every person’s right to a fair trial, and to uphold the principle of the presumption of innocence, as agreed in the Copenhagen Document of 1990.  A clarification from the Delegation of Turkey on the status of these investigations, including the charges against those detained, would be welcome,” the OSCE said.