Mar 27 2018

Turkey detains 100s over Syria social media posts – Human Rights Watch

Turkish police have detained hundreds of people for posting opinions on social media on the military’s cross-border operation in the Syrian district of Afrin, Human Rights Watch said in a report.

“Detaining and prosecuting people for tweets calling for peace is a new low for Turkey’s government,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Turkish authorities should respect people’s right to peacefully criticise any aspect of government policy, including military operations, and drop these absurd cases.”

The group’s report examined five cases in detail and concluded that police raids are being used as punishment for those who peacefully dissent rather than any genuine belief that a crime had been committed.

The cases examined were those of Ahval contributor Nurcan Baysal, a journalist and rights activist; Mehmet Türkmen, the deputy head of leftist group EMEP; Ali Erol, the founder of an LGBTI rights group; Sibel Tekin, a documentary filmmaker; and Kutay Meriç, a senior member at activist group Halk Evleri.

“Even if a case does not go to trial or ends in acquittal, people labelled as terrorism suspects face adverse consequences due to police investigations and criminal proceedings, including possible loss of employment and social exclusion,” the group said.

Turkish troops and their Islamist Syrian allies captured the town of Afrin on March 18 after a two-month offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces. Turkish leaders say offensive operations will continue against other Kurdish-held areas on its border.