Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the sentences against 35 workers and trade unionists, as it believes they are solely linked to the legitimate and peaceful work of the trade union Birleşik Metal-İş in defence of labour rights as well as human rights.On 2 November 2018, prison sentences were handed down to 35 workers and trade unionists from Birleşik Metal-İş for violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations during a protest that took place back in 2016 in Renault’s Turkish plant Oyak, in Bursa.
On 1 March 2016, the workers had peacefully protested Oyak’s efforts to limit workers’ freedom of association and the recent dismissal of over 60 workers who were members of the trade union Birleşik Metal-İş. It is a trade union that has been advocating for the advancement of working conditions as well as for the social, economic and cultural rights of the workers in the metal industry in Turkey.
The trade union also represents the overwhelming majority of the workers at the car manufacturer Renault’s Turkish plant, Oyak. It is a member of IndustriALL Global Union, representing 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors.
On 2 November 2018, 35 workers and trade unionists were convicted on the same charge and sentenced to five months in prison. All sentences were postponed, except for four, on the condition that they would not be convicted for any other crime within the next five years. The workers whose sentences are postponed are not able to appeal the decision. The sentences against the remaining four workers are suspended, and they are entitled to appeal the decision.
Furthermore, two other individuals, who expressed their support for the demonstrations on social media, were sentenced to three years and four months in prison for “inciting people to illegal assembly and demonstration.” Should their appeal be unsuccessful, the two individuals will be detained to serve their prison sentences.
FLD urged the authorities in Turkey to immediately quash the sentences against four workers, whose sentences are subject to appeal, and stop the criminalisation and judicial harassment of workers and trade unionists in Turkey,