The State Department expressed concern Thursday over the Turkish government’s arrest of several human rights activists, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the July 5, detention of prominent human rights defenders from Amnesty International Turkey and other respected institutions,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“As with past arrests of prominent human rights defenders, journalists, academics, and activists, we underscore the importance of respecting due process and individual rights, as enshrined in the Turkish Constitution, and consistent with Turkey’s own international commitments.”
Turkey on Wednesday detained Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International Turkey, and several other activists attending a workshop on digital security, the organization said.
Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty called on Turkey to “immediately and unconditionally” release Eser and the other human rights activists who were detained.
“We are profoundly disturbed and outraged that some of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders, including the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, should have been detained so blatantly without cause,” Shetty said in a statement.
“Her incommunicado detention and that of the other human rights defenders attending a routine training event, is a grotesque abuse of power and highlights the precarious situation facing human rights activists in the country.”
The State Department warned against curbing free speech in its statement.
“As we have expressed on numerous occasions, persistent curbs on freedom of expression erode the foundations of democratic society. More voices, not fewer, are necessary in challenging times,” Nauert said.
Last month, The New York Times reported that members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail would face charges for the May attack on protesters outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C.