Turkey : Judicial harassment of trade unionists, construction workers

Turkish trade unions have demanded the release of building workers’ leader Ozgur Karabulut and others, who were detained by the notorious gendarmes for their role in the Istanbul airport construction site dispute. The first hearing of 31 detained construction workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, will be held on 5 December 2018 before Gaziosmanpaşa’s Criminal Court of First Instance.

They were arrested following a peaceful protest organised by thousands of construction workers to demand improvement of the poor working and living conditions on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. They are facing charges of “disrupting the freedom to work”, “damaging public property”, “resisting police” and “possessing weapons during public assemblies and demonstrations”.

On 14 September 2018, over 10 000 construction workers ceased operations and gathered to protest the precarious working and living conditions on the construction site of Istanbul’s third airport. Their demands included the improvement of shuttle services, payment of overdue wages, improved workplace safety to prevent fatal accidents and a solution to the bed bug problem in dormitories.

On the night of the protest, the gendarmerie raided the dormitories of the workers and detained 401 workers. While the majority of the detained workers were released in the following days, 28 workers and trade unionists were arrested.
Over the next days, six more workers/trade unionist were detained, including Özgür Karabulut.

He was arrested on 5 October 2018 because of a speech he delivered during the protests allegedly encouraging the workers to continue demonstrating and slow down the work. A criminal investigation was opened against 61 workers and trade unionists, 31 of which are in detention.

Front Line Defenders (FLD) expresses its concern at the judicial harassment of workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, as it believes it is solely linked to the legitimate and peaceful activities in defence of labour rights as well as human rights. It urges Trukey authorities to immediately release the detained workers and trade unionists, including Özgür Karabulut, and drop the charges against them.

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