Turkish court orders arrest of six human rights workers on terrorism charges

ISTANBUL — A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the formal arrest of Amnesty International’s director of operations in Turkey and five other human rights workers in a sign of what rights advocates say is the government’s growing intolerance of critical voices.

The Amnesty director, Idil Eser, was detained along with nine other human rights advocates this month during a raid on a hotel where the group was attending a workshop. The formal charges were not immediately available Tuesday, but Amnesty said in a statement that the rights workers had been held on the unfounded suspicion of committing crime in the name of terrorist organization without being a member.

Four members of the group were released on bail on Tuesday but remain under investigation, Amnesty said.


‘‘This is not a legitimate prosecution,’’ Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s international director, said in a statement. ‘‘This is a politically motivated persecution that charts a frightening future for rights in Turkey.’’

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The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrested more than 50,000 since an attempted coup by renegade soldiers last July, according to Justice Ministry figures. Tens of thousands of people have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs. Authorities have said their campaign is aimed at Kurdish militants and followers of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric whom authorities have called the mastermind of the coup.

During ceremonies commemorating the failed coup Saturday, Erdogan promised that the state’s hunt for its enemies would continue, vowing that ‘‘none of the traitors who betrayed this country will remain unpunished.’’

Human rights groups have said that the post-coup arrests and purges have swept up ordinary dissidents, critics, and innocent citizens. In a recent Amnesty report, some people dismissed from their jobs said they had fallen under scrutiny because of union activism.

About two weeks after the release of that report, Turkish police arrested Taner Kilic, Amnesty’s board chairman for Turkey, and charged him with being a member of Gulen’s organization.


As part of its campaign to protest the arrests this month, Amnesty called attention to its past advocacy on behalf of Erdogan, who was jailed in 1998 when he was the mayor of Istanbul, for reading a poem at a demonstration. The organization said it had written a letter to the Turkish government demanding Erdogan’s release, had declared him a prisoner of conscience, and launched a global campaign on his behalf.