502 Turkish Trade Unionists in court after protest crackdown
The Turkish state’s oppression of trade unionists and other dissenting voices is plumbing new depths. On Monday an initial hearing took place in Ankara of a case involving 502 people. Defendants included the President and General Secretary of the Turkish public sector trade union confederation KESK, as well as many of its members
They are charged with causing damage to public properties and using violence during a strike and demonstration on 28-29 March 2012 in Ankara. This demonstration attended by thousands of public employees was organised to protest against the draft law No. 4688 on Public Employees Trade Unions and a draft amendment to the Law on Education. The trade unionists concerns were varied including both the continued restrictions on public sector trade unions but also education reforms which they believe will lead to greater inequality for female students and more child labour.
The Turkish police sadly ended the demonstration with their customary violence. As a result of the police attack, two demonstrators were severely wounded. A complaint was lodged against the police officers for the damages caused by their violent attack but no criminal proceeding has been launched. It is of course the demonstrators who are in the dock.
In addition, on 23-24 January, the first hearing of a separate case against KESK’s members and leaders will be held in Istanbul. They were arrested during a police raid carried out on 19th February 2013 across much of Turkey. The police not only raided the headquarters of KESK in Ankara but also searched KESK members’ homes as well as the public buildings where they work. Overall, more than 150 persons were arrested with 47 of them being kept in prison awaiting trial. In this instance the state has made use of the notorious Turkish Anti-Terrorist laws under which defendants can find themselves serving long sentences without ever being involved in or condoning violence.
To express solidarity with those before the courts delegates from ETUC, EPSU, ETUCE and European national affiliates have and will attend these hearings.
You can show your solidarity with Turkish trade unions by using the ITUC online action to tell the Turkish government to release immediately all the arrested union members and end the judicial harassment against trade unionists. You can help strengthen this action by spreading the word and asking as many friends, family, and co-workers as possible to protest against this judicial harassment of Turkey’s trade unionists.