Turkey: 22 Public Sector Union Members and Leaders Freed After Six Months of Unlawful Detention


On Thursday 19 and Friday 20 November, in Izmir, Turkey, the ITUC attended, together with over a dozen representatives from trade unions and Global Union Federations from eight different European countries, the trial against 31 leaders and members of Turkish public sector union KESK. Being tried on charges of having established a terrorist organisation, 22 of them had already spent nearly six months in prison without access to due trial.
Between January and May 2009, the Turkish police had tapped the phones of 36 KESK members and leaders. The accusations were all written up after this. On 28 May, they were all arrested. In the end, 31 were made to stand trial on terrorism charges, of whom 22 were detained. From then on, their rights were violated in a huge number of ways.
After their arrest, they were kept in detention for almost six months. Until the submission of the indictment, on 31 July, the defence lawyers did not have access to their files. Their homes and workplaces were searched and their computers were confiscated. The only evidence against them stemmed from their recorded telephone conversations and their e-mail exchanges.
During the trial itself, the rights of the defense were constantly violated, with the president of the court himself doing the interrogations, the defense lawyers being impeded to speak to the defendants, and only one female guard being present although ten women were standing trial.
Last Friday night, the court in Izmir ruled all detainees had to be freed. Although the international trade union movement of course welcomed this decision, it remains highly concerned because all the accused will have to appear in court again in March next year. 
Sadly enough, this trial took place concurrently with the case of another Turkish trade unionist, also arrested and detained on terrorism charges. Murad Akincilar was living in Switzerland after having fled Turkey in 2000. In Switzerland, he worked for UNIA, a national union center. While in Turkey on 30 September, he was arrested. He now faces harsh detention conditions and has partially lost his sight in one eye because he was not granted the necessary medical care.
"The European Court for Human Rights has convicted Turkey many times for its lack of fair trials; this is just one more of these occasions,",said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder. "The ITUC, together with the other international observers in Izmir, strongly disapproves of this kind of abuse of the legal system – abuse clearly aimed at curtailing a union."